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Book on SDIs in Europe: Use and Necessity of INSPIRE

Ian Masser’s book, ‘Building European Data Infrastructures,’ can be read as a plea for more cooperation between European governments to collect and share geo-information through one digital geo-portal. To achieve this goal the EU created the INSPIRE project, in place since the end of 2006.

Without being too technical, Masser shows why this project is so important and how it can succeed: by a proactive attitude from stakeholders, much networking and trying to achieve a common sense so that everyone will be happy with the end results.

The importance of geo-information cannot be overestimated. Citizens and governments benefit from unambiguous and up-to-date geo-information. Collecting and storing this data happens in different ways in different EU countries. The same goes for making this data available within these countries, to say nothing of its availability on an international level.

The INSPIRE project was created by the European Union to offer European citizens a geo-portal with access to standardized geo-information for every EU country.

The project is modeled after an example in America where a national geo-portal already exists. To make this geo-portal work, national data needs to be collected, maintained, shared and harmonized within SDIs (spatial data infrastructures) that are not just databases within organizations, but that incorporate the bigger picture of legislation, technology, networks and organizations that collect, share and use spatial data. Beside the need to harmonize national geo-data, there is also a need to study certain appearances in an international context, like river basins that cover many countries. Harmonization of this information saves a lot of time, money and effort. To make this happen, much work needs to be done, states Masser, himself an authority on SDIs. In 84 pages he draws up the balance sheet of what has been done to date and what the future of INSPIRE will bring.

Legislative Context

Masser’s book can be divided into two parts. The first part is about such elementary concepts as GIS and SDIs and their benefits and necessities in practice. He stresses the social components of SDIs: it’s humans who collect, share, maintain and use this data, and technology is there to make this happen. In the second part of the book Masser gives three examples of SDIs in Europe, all part of the INSPIRE project. INSPIRE is a sequel to a previous European project, CORINE, that explored the possibilities around the use and exchange of geographic information. Much attention is paid to the development of the legislative context of INSPIRE that gives the project its right to exist and its continuation in the future. In 2009, when member states will have made changes to their national laws to meet the requirements of INSPIRE, the project will be fully operational. These are no more than the essential preconditions of the total INSPIRE project; to create a real European platform, organizations involved in creating SDIs will have to join hands and create public-private partnerships. Masser has written a very insightful book on the INSPIRE project. From the organizational perspective, the use and necessity of the project becomes very clear. The future will decide whether his message of networking will reach those for whom this book was written, namely those who make use of the information in SDIs.

More information on

By Eric van Rees
Editorial Manager of GeoInformatics.

Title: Building European Spatial Data Infrastructures.
Auteur: Ian Messer.
Uitgever: ESRI Press
ISBN: 978-1-589428-165-7
Aantal pagina’s: 91
Prijs: EUR 21,95