SDI framework

Mar 2011 | No Comment

Roles boundaries and flows

Natural Boundaries around Responsibilities

An operationally effective NSDI is contributed to by meeting the key challenges in developing an inclusive model of governance and effective data sharing.

Our themes are that public and private certainly share the task of establishing efficient, operational NSDI and new governance mechanisms are needed to get us there.

The boundaries around the responsibilities need to be drawn and re-drawn. Reorganised government agencies are necessary and relatively simple, being ultimately single legal entities, but sufficient change also requires private sector engagement. So the reorganisation of responsibility is not so simple.

The Spatially Enabled Government in Victoria Australia including [SEG,2007] and the work of the Australian Office of Spatial Data Management (OSDM) suggests “there is general acknowledgement that the major challenges in implementing an enabling platform are not technical, but institutional, legal and administrative in nature.”

They [SEG, 2007] identifies three strategic challenges: governance, data sharing and access and an overarching challenge regarding how to develop a SDI that will provide an enabling platform in a transparent manner that will serve the majority of society. It also suggest SDI development has often been “dominated by the concerns of central governments usually without the participation of stakeholders from the sub national levels of government, the private sector and academia” and oriented at “professional elite rather the population as a whole who are the main beneficiaries”. They suggest an SDI includes “enabling platform linking those who produce, provide and add value to data”.

SEG reference many aspects of an NSDI: organisations, roles and relationships; data, technology and standards; processes, actions and practices; policies and decisions; criteria, business goals, strategies, products and services, laws and regulations.
We see our work building upon past results by facilitating the strategic challenges related to inclusive models of governance for NSDI establishment. What we propose is both a renewed focus on the definition of the responsibility boundaries and a supporting framework to articulate, visualise and analyse the information and knowledge flows.

SEG suggested that “a new business paradigm [promoting] the partnership of spatial information organisations (public/private) to provide access to a wider scope of data and services, of size and complexity that is beyond their individual capacity.” There are recognitions in the SEG work also that we need something above the detail instance and implementation specific data that we commonly find referred to by technical specialists.

Public and private roles

When considering an NSDI we have to balance two opposing flows i.e.of control and of data

– Top to bottom – control and governance naturally flows from top to bottom

– Bottom to top – data naturally flows from bottom to top.

Our implementation mediates between these flows. The state plays a pivotal role in the sound initial establishment of new key national infrastructures e.g. post, telephony, power, broadcasting, road and rail. As approaches to national developments mature we see individuals, the state and private sectors organisations increasingly share these roles and responsibilities (as we have in the other areas of national infrastructure). NSDI is a new class of ‘data’ infrastructure. It enables efficient economies and supports the nation’s socio-economic development objectives and policies.

The challenge for many years, including those when paper based maps, plans, designs and specialised dedicated models suited to a single audience or purpose were common, has been to integrate, maintain, analyse, and enable access by a wide range of different parties.

Individuals, state and private sector organisations share the mandate and responsibility for their establishment and operation. The framework proposed provides a means for dealing with the information about these things (meta-information) that enable governance. SEG suggests a broad goal for an NSDI is to support “more effective and more transparent coordination”. The framework approach here, in the first place allows an effective and transparent co-ordination of the meta-information so that the professional elite and all other stakeholders are able to participate. In this way the framework relates to the flexible setting of public/private responsibility boundaries.

The implementation of complex IT infrastructures (e.g. NSDI), with governance, stakeholders, business users, designers, engineers and planners is assisted by inclusive, early, persistent engagement on responsibilities. Frameworks that enable visualisation of the meta information (functions, meta-data, roles, assets, networks of related elements, …) allow the overall picture to be worked with to suit the needs of the entire constituency.

We want to be able to understand how a number of parties can collaborate in an NSDI. To map the roles, functions, assets, data etc. of these entities we need a framework which is a canonical model. If we wish to be able safely encourage the private sector to engage in some areas we need to very clearly understand the upstream and downstream implications e.g. from a function upstream to what regulations or goals it is critical to from the NSDI perspective and not merely the perspective of an implementing party. The down stream flows are to what technologies and assets are interrelated.

Such an understanding is fundamental to knowledge of gaps, overlaps, risks and impacts of a set of organisations engaging collaboratively to implement, operate and evolve an NSDI.

Engaging the private sector

In the agreements needed on responsibility boundaries a flexible approach contributes success. Agreement and definition of NSDI would be shared, state undoubtedly have the mandate for governance and private are the likely location of efficient implementation and operation.

“Government has to be a smart buyer, meaning knowing what to buy, deciding from whom to buy it, and then determining what it has bought; that is, preparing careful specifications as what is to be purchased, conducting a competitive procurement in a competitive market, and monitoring the contractor’s performance.” (Ref Kettl 1993)

Strong commitment from the top is needed to build the capacity for effective contracting and procurement because of the complexity and challenges of public contract management. (Ref Savas)

NSDI, being relatively new national infrastructures as well as complex systems are ideal programmes to which past lessons on responsibility setting be applied. Hernando de Soto himself illustrates this opportunity. “In many countries, years of state regulatory intervention have produced bureaucratic obstacles and economic stagnation. Hernando de Soto illustrates how much time is wasted in Peru following the labyrinthine official procedures to start a business or build a house: It takes 289 days to register an industrial enterprise and 26 months to license informal taxi operators, for example. The informal economy (i.e., ‘black market’) encourages far greater productivity than the official sector.” (HDS Ref 1989) He advocates deregulation, de-bureaucratisation, and decentralisation.

State and private engagement is necessary for delivery of NSDI. New mechanisms for governance are required for NSDI implementations to work. Engagement between state and private sector should aim to achieve economic efficiency through exposure to market discipline. The emergence of demand-driven, market-based arrangements can be sued to satisfy new needs associated with NSDI.

While privatisation can indeed be mismanaged in these ways, management of ordinary public services suffers from many of these same shortcomings; that is, poor management can sometimes be found whether government is managing public employees or the privatisation process. When mismanagement occurs in the private sector, market forces tend to weed it out ruthlessly. Privatisation and public-private partnerships reflect market principles and together constitute a strategy for improving public management.


We seek to make a non-incremental step in the way that NSDIs are implemented.

We believe that an NSDI requires a framework with specific characteristics, capabilities and structure in order to allow best practice to be capture and applied. It is only by establishing this that we will significantly affect the efficacy of NSDI implementations. Assuring implementation schedules, operational effectiveness and fit for purpose.

Many best practice methods have been identified that we can learn from and we believe there are better ways now available to implement a framework to assure NSDIs to operate effectively.

At present many parties are focused on capturing knowledge that should reside in such a framework. Sadly much of the knowledge still resides in documents or in people’s heads where it is not particularly useful in regard to accessibility, capacity to be integrated and analysed.

Individuals, state and private sector organisations share the mandate and responsibility for NSDI establishment and operation. The strategic challenges related to the inclusiveness of the governance models and inherent approaches to data access, renewal and use.

What we propose is both a renewed focus on the definition of the responsibilities associated with NSDI establishment and a supporting framework to articulate, visualise and analyse the information and knowledge flows.


– Alexander, C (1977). A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. Oxford University Press; ISBN 0195019199.

– CMMI –



– DSM –

– FEAF –

– Gideon Project, 2008, Key geo-information facility for the Netherlands, Approach and implementation strategy, Netherlands GI Council

– Gruen, N. Dr, Chair, State of Victoria, Australia, Government 2.0 Taskforce (Aug 2009)

– Henderson-Sellers, B. et al., 1999, “Instantiating the Process Metamodel,” JOOP, 12(3): 51-57, (June 1999)

– IFW –

– ITIL – .

– Kettl, D.; 1993, Sharing Power: Public Governance and Private Markets (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution), chapter 8

– Lundy, K (2009). Three pillars of Open Government

– SEG – Masser I., Rajabifard A. and Williamson, I.; Spatially Enabling Governments through SDI implementation; Centre for Spatial Data Infrastructures and Land Administration; Department of Geomatics, University of Melbourne,Victoria 3010, Australia; (July 2007).

– The Royal Academy of Engineering (2004), The Challenges of Complex IT Projects, Published by The Royal Academy of Engineering, London; ISBN 1-903496-15-2


– ValIT –

– Zachman –

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