Do we need a report card on the performance of the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure?

April 14, 2015 gplunkett

Recently, the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations in the United States released a report card on the status of the US National Spatial Data Infrastructure. Is there a need to perform a similar type of assessment and grading of the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure?

Everyone has received report cards during their school days and how you felt about receiving your report card usually depended on the type of student you were. Generally, if you were a good student, then you may have been happy to get your report card. If you were a poor student, report card time may not have always been a happy time. However, since no one ever gets perfect grades, it’s clear that no matter what your grade was, there was always room for improvement.

In the United States, a group called the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations commissioned an Expert Panel to assess and grade the US National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) and publish an NSDI report card. Because an SDI is complex and a national one is even more so, the Expert Panel decided that it would score the framework data layers separately from the comprehensive NSDI. Following a rigorous assessment methodology and careful consideration of all the facets, the group rated the seven framework data layers with an overall average grade of “C”, while the comprehensive NSDI was given a “C-". Not bad, but there’s definitely room for improvement.

While reading the NSDI report card, I couldn’t help comparing the US situation with that of Canada. In fact, the parallels between the US and Canadian situations on the assessment were somewhat uncanny. As you’re probably aware, the pan-Canadian SDI has been under development by the GeoConnections Program at Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) for a number of years and is known as the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI).

Using the same evaluation criteria provided in the NSDI report card, I made a quick assessment of the CGDI and its framework data. Here’s my “unscientific” comparison of the US NSDI and the CGDI with some explanation for the CGDI grade.

Framework Data Grading

Subject

NSDI Grade

CGDI Grade

Comments on CGDI data grade

Cadastral Data

D+

D-

In many provinces, cadastral data is only available as a fee-based service

Geodetic Control

B+

A-

Geodetic control data is readily available and generally accurate on a national basis

Elevation Data

C+

C-

CDED data has some deficiencies in quality and resolution, but has national coverage

Hydrography Data

C

C+

The National Hydrographic Network is quite good, but often has deficiencies in data currency

Orthoimagery Data

C+

D

There is no national imagery strategy resulting in a patchwork of out-of-date imagery

Government Units Data

C

C+

Administrative boundaries data is generally of good quality and currency

Transportation Data

D

D+

The National Road Network generally suffers from data currency issues

Overall Data Grade

C

C

While several data layers are currently usable, overall CGDI framework data requires attention

Comprehensive CGDI Grading

Subject

NSDI Grade

CGDI Grade

Comments on CGDI comprehensive grade

Capacity

C

C

Many CGDI framework data themes do not meet current or future needs

Condition

D

D

Many CGDI framework data themes are out of date

Funding

D

D

CGDI and framework data funding is low and continues to decline

Future Need

D

C

Future funding could help some data layers, but cadastral data improvements require new policies

Operation and Maintenance

C

D+

Many key lead organizations are no longer able to maintain and develop their framework data

Public Use

C

D

Most framework data is not accessible in a consistent manner by the general public

Resilience

C

B-

The geospatial community has several methods of participating and providing input

Overall Comprehensive Grade

C-

C-

The overall comprehensive grade indicates that the CGDI still requires attention and funding

Grading legend:

  • A = Fit for the future
  • B = Adequate for now
  • C = Requires attention
  • D = At risk F = Unfit for purpose

In my view, while the overall scores are about the same, the CGDI is performing better in some areas than the US NSDI; while in other areas, Canada is not performing as well.

So, what should we do about this situation? Should we just leave it be and hope that performance will improve on its own? Unfortunately, the current situation will not improve on its own and if little or nothing is done, it will certainly continue to decline over time. What should the Canadian Geomatics Community do about this?

Well, I think we should do two things. First, a serious professional assessment and evaluation of the CGDI needs to be performed to produce a scientifically valid Canadian version of the CGDI report card. Second, once the initial CGDI report card is completed and areas requiring immediate attention are identified, a focused plan could then be drawn up to address and modernize these shortcomings.

One of the areas of strength in Canada is the community’s ability to come together to get things done. I suggest that the Canadian Geomatics Community Round Table (or GeoAlliance Canada as it soon may be called) take the lead in performing this assessment of the CGDI as well as planning and implementing the necessary improvements noted in the assessment report card. What do you think?

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SDI Snapshot - April 2015
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SDI Snapshot - March 2015
SDI Snapshot - March 2015

Here’s a look at what’s happening in Canada and globally in the world of Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI).

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