Oregon tests project to make data sharing easier

Geographic information system officials at the Oregon Geospatial Data Clearinghouse (OGDC) are testing a way to provide access to distributed data sets—some of them geographic, some not—over the Web.

A group of agencies at the state and local levels participated in the program, including the Oregon Administrative Services Department, OGDC, Multnomah County and Tri-Met, the Portland area transportation authority.

Like most large organizations, the agencies stored their data in many different locations and in a diverse array of formats, including ArcInfo, Shapefiles and other products from ESRI of Redlands, Calif., Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server.

The Digitally Integrated Mining of Oregon Networked Data (DIMOND) project used the Xmarc middleware toolset from PlanGraphics Inc. of Frankfort, Ky., to translate the variety of data formats into one browser-compatible format.

“We wanted to be able to access the data as though it were all located on the same server,” said Cy Smith, Oregon’s statewide GIS coordinator.

The team also wanted users to be able to access smaller pieces of the data, Smith said. “You wouldn’t have to access every piece of the state’s street centerline file [the basic digital map that shows streets with details such as addresses, ZIP Codes and census boundaries]. You could kind of zoom in on a particular, smaller chunk of space.”

The GIS team also wanted the owners of the data to be able to provide as much or as little access to the data sets as they felt comfortable with, said Ed Arabas, GIS business analyst for Oregon.

Xmarc lets data providers set up “permitted use” areas of the data set, Arabas said.

By setting these limits, the agency participants felt comfortable with putting information on the Web, Smith said.

“Everybody is struggling with this, how to give people access to GIS information on the Web without putting too much of a burden on data providers,” Smith said.

And that’s the difference between DIMOND and other methods of data sharing, Arabas said. “We’re not asking data providers to do anything different in their business processes. They can share or not share information as they deem appropriate. They can constrain users. The Xmarc administrator tells users what you can see and what you can’t.”

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