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6/7/2005
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Shared Data Saves Lives, Money

It's not often that the private sector can learn from government about more effective IT spending or data sharing.

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The rate of annual spending increases on OLAP projects is speeding up again, after years of modest rates. It's certainly not because prices have risen: Microsoft's Analysis Services lowered OLAP server prices, and the prices of OLAP clients and reliance on consultants have fallen as well. In terms of volume, therefore, OLAP is growing even faster than Nigel Pendse's annual "OLAP Report," just released for 2005, would indicate.

It's not often that the private sector can learn from government about more effective IT spending or data sharing. That's why the U.S. Department of Interior's Geospatial One-Stop (GOS) Portal is so unusual. Three parts MapQuest and one part Craigslist, GOS has enabled federal, state and local government agencies to share geospatial information system (GIS) content since July 2003. A "GOS2" upgrade set for this July will enhance an online marketplace that helps agencies break through organizational boundaries to pool their resources for investment in new GIS content. In other words, it cuts down on redundant investments in geographic data acquisition across all levels of government.

GOS was built to support government planning for transportation, parks, disaster recovery and environmental protection, but it was fast-tracked after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks because it promised secured access to GIS detail on bridges, tunnels, water supply systems and power grids. The portal (www.geodata.gov/gos) now has metadata on 75,000 GIS sources and live access to more than 10,000 maps provided by agencies at various levels of government.

"In a rescue, authorities don't care if resources are in one state or another, but they can't make the best decision if they're not sharing their information," says senior GOS project advisor Pat Cummens of GIS vendor ESRI.

Awarded in February, ESRI's five-year, $2.4 million contract for GOS2 specified IBM WebSphere portal technology with single sign on, a user-customizable interface and a spatially enabled Google search appliance for faster searching. Considering that the federal government spends some $3 billion and state and local agencies $6 billion per year buying geospatial data, according to the Department of the Interior, the agency expects a return on the investment.

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