Wisconsin Geospatial News

Geospatial One-Stop Portal

Look! there’s a new federal web portal dedicated to maps and geospatial information. On June 30, the Geospatial One-Stop (GOS) initiative released its first milestone product in the form of the GOS Portal: a new gateway to geospatial data, documents, and resources from across the country. But the hype around all-in-one-solution portals is not new, and we’ve all seen various initiatives come and go – so what’s going to make this one different?

According to what we’ve seen and read so far, it comes down to three factors: building on existing activities and investments; focus on the needs of and usability for end-users; and designation of "open" standards and specifications for participation in this national effort. Measured success in each of these areas will determine the fate of the GOS Portal.

Setting the institutional stage

To get a better look at what this effort represents, let’s do a background check. Standards-based interoperability, improved intergovernmental cooperation at all levels, and on-line "one-stop" access – these are three primary goals of the Federal Geospatial One-Stop initiative. The GOS initiative is one of 24 "Quicksilver", or high-pay-off, OMB E-Government initiatives to foster improved efficiency, effectiveness, and customer service throughout the Federal government. This is termed a G2G initiative emphasizing its role in government-to-government cooperation and interoperability. General information on the One-Stop initiative can be found at the Portal’s parent site: www.geo-one-stop.gov.

In the last several months, Hank Garie, former GIS Coordinator for the State of New Jersey, was hired as GOS executive director; a standards review and adoption process has been set into motion; and most recently, the GOS Portal was launched providing a view of work to date. So, you might ask, what makes this portal unique and/or better? And how does it relate to two other prominent federal programs, the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) and The National Map initiatives?

Portal to NSDI data, services, and partners

The GOS Portal is really just a first milestone in a series of steps to essentially accelerate development and implementation of the NSDI. Indeed, while some have questioned from the beginning the relationship between the newer Geospatial One-stop initiative and NSDI efforts begun over the last decade, it is becoming increasingly clear that the two must be complementary to succeed.

The NSDI has often been described in components as: GEOdata, framework, metadata, standards, clearinghouse, and partnerships; which add up to, more eloquently, the public technologies, policies, and people necessary to promote geospatial data sharing at all levels. The intent of GOS is to build tools that can deliver benefits based on the huge investment in the NSDI.

The NSDI’s focus has been on ‘process’ while GOS focuses on ‘product.’ Thus, in parallel to the NSDI, GOS is described in components as: planned GEOdata acquisition; framework inventory; metadata catalog services; standards not only for data content, but also for delivery and streaming web services; a portal to NSDI Clearinghouses, and more; and "geopartnerships" for future geospatial activities.

In other words, from the GOS Portal, users should be able to find GIS and spatially-referenced data, irrespective of custodian or on which Clearinghouse node it resides; make a map using a variety of catalogued on-line applications, locate map services to incorporate in an application, or finally, locate partners for future data- or application-building activities.

The National Map as piece and product

Heavily tied into the GOS portal is The National Map. To me, this relationship is analogous to the current Wisconsin Land Information System (WLIS) prototype. In our state, WiDNR is building not only a ‘Core Node’ or Portal, but also their own enterprise state agency ‘node.’ At this stage, the two draw upon or build upon the technologies of the other, and this is how it’s supposed to work. Nodes become contributors to and benefactors from the core node through sharing of both information and tools.

The National Map interface is used on the GOS Portal as one option for a visual interface while searching for data; as the cartographic interface while making a map; and as one possible destination for data or services found through the Portal. So the site acts as both an integral component of the portal system as well as a possible product outlet.

Hopefully other agencies will likewise use existing services and templates to build integrated decision-making applications built on multi-agency data services. An example of this that recently surfaced can be found at FEMA’s site: www.hazardmaps.gov.

Standards are key to success

Of course, the key to building on others’ efforts is interoperability, which requires some level of standards adoption and adherence. Parallel to GOS portal development is an effort to expedite the process for adoption of content standards for, at least, FGDC’s identified Framework data categories. In addition, Open GIS Consortium (OGC) interoperability standards for catalog and webmapping services have been identified as the architecture on which the whole system will be assembled.

Time will tell what progress is made on these standards fronts. What seems clear is it’s never too soon to incorporate these standards in our own efforts to prepare for future collaboration with interoperable partners.

Wisconsin parallels are significant

Reading the front page of the GOS website should bring back memories. Much of the language describing the GOS portal echoes three-year-old recommendations from the year for our own Wisconsin Land Information System. This is a good opportunity to monitor the efforts of others to avoid duplicating their efforts in making both the WLIS vision and implementation of the NSDI a reality.