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11/12/2010
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White House Pushes Geospatial Collaboration

Obama administration wants agencies to adopt standard management practices and to invest more efficiently, while GSA looks to cloud for a new platform.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters

The White House is urging federal agencies to work more closely together on geospatial data efforts, issuing updated guidance aimed at improving management of the federal government's steadily increasing coffers of geospatial data.

"We're trying to make sure we leverage the economies of scale and intellect when it comes to geospatial data in government," federal CIO Vivek Kundra said in an interview. "While there's a lot of geospatial data out there, we've seen trouble with interoperability. There's also a huge opportunity to leverage our purchasing power and coordinate the investments we make."

Geospatial data plays an important role in government planning and response to emergency and non-emergency needs nationwide, whether in the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a planned Department of Housing and Urban Development effort to anticipate citizens' needs for public housing, or in systems that store information on the locations of federal buildings. However, IT planning for geospatial data too often remains ad hoc and haphazard, according to an Office of Management and Budget memo attached to the White House guidance.

The guidance pushes agencies to adopt standard geospatial data management practices laid out throughout the guidance in a new framework, divide their data into themes, work through a collaborative investment process to help make investments more efficiently, increase transparency in regards to agency creation of data sets.

Agencies are also urged to create plans for implementing the guidance and report those to the Federal Geographic Data Committee, an inter-agency entity at the center of government-wide geospatial data efforts that will annually recommend additional government-wide steps for achieving a more effective approach to geospatial data management across the government.

Though it doesn't make an appearance in the memo, cloud computing also factors into the government's geospatial plans. For example, the General Services Administration has said that it plans to work with other agencies to create a cloud-based geospatial information system to store and manage the government's geospatial data, and geospatial data is already a centerpiece of Data.gov, for which GSA recently signed a cloud contract.

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