Advanced Regional Spatial Data Infrastructures in Europe (2008)


This report presents the findings of the workshop on Advanced Regional Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDIs) organised by the European Commission Joint Research Centre in May 2008. The objectives of the workshop were to review the state of progress, analyse the different organisational models established with local and national stakeholders, and assess the social and economic impacts of the regional SDIs. Eleven regional/sub-national SDIs in Europe are presented in the report:

Lombardy, and Piedmont (Italy), Catalonia and Navarra (Spain), Wallonia and Flanders (Belgium), North-Rhine Westphalia and Bavaria (Germany), Northern Ireland (UK), Brittany (France), and Vysovina (Czech Republic).

These experiences are set in the context of the broader European framework provided by the INSPIRE Directive, the national State of Play studies, and international experiences in the USA and Australia. A key finding of the report is that these regions are indeed leading actors in the development of SDIs in Europe, adopting state-of-the art technologies, standards, and models and often setting the pace through example for others to follow. Crucially important is their role in coordinating and organising developments at the local level through a large array of partnerships and organisational models. This organisational work is challenging because it involves a very large number of stakeholders operating at the local level, and requires long term political, organisational, and personal commitment. However, the evidence available at the time that the study was undertaken indicates that it is at the local level that the largest social and economic benefits of an SDI can be found, supporting operational day-to-day applications affecting millions of citizens and local businesses. To achieve these benefits there is no alternative but to engage locally and invest in building and maintaining relationships and trust. From this perspective, the main lesson of the European experiences, supported by those in the USA and Australia, is that Spatial Data Infrastructures are foremost social networks of people and organisations, in which technology and data play a supportive role. The technology is cheap, data is expensive, but social relations are invaluable.

Geographical scope

Lombardy, and Piedmont (Italy), Catalonia and Navarra (Spain), Wallonia and Flanders (Belgium), North-Rhine Westphalia and Bavaria (Germany), Northern Ireland (UK), Brittany (France), and Vysovina (Czech Republic).

Non-quantified impacts

The following are identified on Page 98:

  • Positive cultural change in the stakeholder organisations with greater willingness to cooperate and share resources
  • More coordinated initiatives at the local level in data collection, and reduction of duplication and costs
  • Agreement on the common usage and maintenance of reference datasets
  • More evidence-based applications, particularly in land use planning and infrastructure planning and maintenance
  • Time and cost reduction in finding and accessing data held by other organisations; for example, in the case of utilities in Northern Ireland it takes now 5 minutes on the web to do what used to take 5 weeks in writing to find out where the utilities of other organisations are
  • Improved shared understanding among public agencies of the problems and issues affecting the region

Quantifiable impacts

On Page 34 of the report the following is reported:

  • The total direct cost of establishing and operating the IDEC over a five-year period (2002-06) was of EUR 1.5 million, of which EUR 325,000 for each of the first two years (2002-03) necessary to launch the SDI, and EUR 283,000 per annum to operate and develop the infrastructure in the three subsequent years (2004-06)
  • Extrapolating the detailed findings from 20 local authorities to the 100 that participate in the IDEC, the study estimated that the internal efficiency benefits account for over 500 hours per month. Using an hourly rate of EUR 30 for technical staff in local government, these savings exceed EUR 2.6 million per year



Study type

Cost-benefit analysis

Economy sector

Public Sector Local Government, Public Sector Central Government, Environment