Developing a platform to facilitate sharing spatial data

Dec 2005 | Comments Off on Developing a platform to facilitate sharing spatial data

Creating an enabling platform

The investigation of current spatial information initiatives undertaken within the various jurisdictions of Australia provides insight into the facets of research needed to create an effective enabling platform. Government entities have identified the need for improved data access and sharing arrangements and have started building their data access platforms and virtual systems for jurisdictions. The development of an enabling platform needs to link with and build on technical and institutional experience and progress made towards the development and utilisation of ICT within jurisdictions.

The technical basis for delivery of whole-of-government on-line systems, investigated within Australian jurisdictions for example, would
form the technical basis for the delivery of an enabling platform. This basis is through an interoperability architecture based on distributed, custodial data management and open standards to meet the needs of producers, users and other stakeholders in order to have the ability for information and services to be created once and used many times. Harmonization of data standards and specifications through the adoption of common data definitions, formats, models and exchange formats will be crucial to the success of an enabling platform. This will ensure that there is an unimpeded ?ow of data and information between the various users and producers of information and tools within an enabling platform. This will also provide uniform and consistent managed access to distributed web services operated by authoritative custodians. The aim of this architecture is to allow initiatives to grow in an open environment that gives agencies the ability to operate in an integrated manner. This creates an opportunity for a national initiative to develop from the often-fragmented developments occurring at State level in Australia. This type of architecture was seen to be the most effective method of creating a national initiative.

The ability to deliver the concept of an enabling platform for the delivery of spatial information and positioning tools and applications however will also require an investigation of the way that data will be stored in the future. The ability to allow massive consolidation of spatial data sets across all jurisdictions may enable the creation of a seamless enabling platform, although there is the need to look closely at the advantages and disadvantages of both a distributed data model verses a consolidated model. It is important to utilise the latest technology in the creation of an enabling platform, with new data base management software and technology promising to change the way in which data is stored. The benefits of such technology are already being seen in the concept of virtual libraries, the emerging GRID computing technologies and super servers throughout the world. However there is general acknowledgement that the major challenges in implementing an enabling platform are not technical, but institutional, legal and administrative in nature (CRC, 2005).

In order to develop an effective enabling platform, it is important that it is developed with the full cooperation of current initiatives within the research field. Currently in Australia, the majority of whole-ofgovernment initiatives based at a state level are being developed through open standards based distributed network architectures. Technically, existing state based initiatives have the potential to contribute to the development of an enabling environment for Australia – however a lot of work needs to be done with respect to institutional practices to make the technology effective. There must have systematic interaction between developers and potential endusers to understand information and positioning needs as a data centric design approach is not desired. An enabling environment for all needs to be created which includes both a top-down and bottom-up approach based on current spatial information and positioning initiatives. To do this effectively depends on the ability to research and implement key institutional arrangements and a governance framework that encourages whole-of-government solutions to major economic, social and environmental issues. A pervasive feature of organisations world-wide, including Australian governments and industry is a reluctance to collaborate with others outside ones immediate work group. Where a strong business driver exists, then collaboration and sharing is possible, however negotiations are generally time-consuming and difficult and at best short-term rather than strategic long-term. This makes multiagency cooperation on long-term projects very difficult to organize. An enabling platform would not only provide ready and seamless access to spatial data, information products and tools, but would also comprise jurisdictional governance & interagency collaborative arrangements for such cross jurisdictions and government-industry collaboration.


An enabling platform aims to link public and private industries, facilitating the sharing of spatial information and positioning data, services and applications. The development of an enabling platform for Australia shows that it will enhance the capability of government, the private sector and the general community to engage in systems based, integrated and holistic decision making about the future of Australia. It will allow decisions to be based on a model where a wide variety of data/information in both vector format and raster format can be accessed to build a view of the nation’s social, environmental and economic management. Development of information and communications technology, as well as developments in the area of computing and database management may begin to provide some other ways of going about the creation of an enabling platform. The research being undertaken within the Department of Geomatics aims to overcome the inherent, lockedin effects that current systems have created over time, providing an enabling environment in which spatial based applications and user communities can grow.


This article is based on a paper titled “Creating an Enabling Platform for the Delivery of Spatial Information” prepared for the Spatial Sciences Conference, September 2005. The authors would like to acknowledge the support of the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information, the University of Melbourne, and the members of the Centre for SDIs and Land Administration at the Department of Geomatics, the University of Melbourne, in the preparation of this article and the associated research. However, the views expressed in the paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily re?ect the views of these groups.


CRC (2005), Report on Concepts and Principles for Virtual Australia, Internal Research Publication, CRC-SI, Melbourne, Australia.

Radwan, M., Alvarez, A., Onchaga, R. and Morales, J. (2003), Designing an Integrated Enterprise Model to support Partnerships in the Geo- Information Industry, MapAsia, 2003.

Rajabifard, A., Binns, A and Williamson., I. (2005a), Creating an Enabling Platform for the Delivery of Spatial Information, Proceedings of SSC 2005 Spatial Intelligence, Innovation and Praxis: The national biennial Conference of the Spatial Sciences Institute, September, 2005. Melbourne: Spatial Sciences Institute.

Rajabifard, A., Binns, A and
Williamson., I. (2005b),
Development of a Virtual Australia

Utilising an SDI Enabled Platform,
Proceedings FIG Working Week 2005
and GSDI-8, Cairo, Egypt April 16-21, 2005.


Abbas Rajabifard

Deputy Director and Senior Research Fellow
Centre for Spatial Data Infrastructures and Land
Administration, Department of Geomatics, The University
of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

Andrew Binns

Research Fellow
Centre for Spatial Data Infrastructures and Land
Administration, Department of Geomatics, The University
of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

Ian Williamson

Director and Prof in Surveying and Land Administration
Centre for Spatial Data Infrastructures and Land
Administration, Department of Geomatics, The University
of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia
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