Report of International Workshop on Spatial Data Infrastructures’ Cost-Benefit / Return on Investment: Assessing the impacts of spatial data infrastructures (2006)


The meeting was hosted by the JRC on the 12-13 January 2006 at its premises in Ispra, Italy. The report is structured in four Sections: the first, provides background to the issue addressed and sets the problem space; the second, highlights examples of current best practice in Europe and North America; the third discusses the relationship between RoI/Cost Benefit Analysis for SDIs and related work undertaken for e-government initiatives; and the fourth, summarises the key issues and identifies directions for future work in this field.

The few studies available at the time and summarised in the report provide useful guidance on the range of methods available but were all characterised by a large number of assumptions the validity of which were untested at that point in time. This was the case because they were by and large ex-ante studies undertaken to justify political and financial support, and the authors had not seen enough studies of SDIs in practice able to assess the extent to which initial assumptions were valid. Moreover, the study focused primarily on set-up costs, and short-term efficiency benefits which are relatively easier to assess, than wider measures including indirect and organisational costs, and longer term social, political and economic benefits.

Geographical scope

Europe: this report provides a summary of the outcomes of a two-day workshop organised by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in partnership with the US Federal Geographic Data Committee, GeoConnections Canada, and the Geoide Network

Non-quantified impacts

A Subset of eGEP indicators for e-government potentially suitable for SDI impact measurement was presented. Furthermore, the following recommendations were made:

  1. To develop a shared portfolio of studies at different levels of granularity: the micro level (e.g., time saving, expenditure reduced or avoided within organisations), meso-level (cross organisational, regional, sectoral), and macro-level (national or international comparative studies, cross-sectoral studies) and build the knowledge base of assumptions made, assessment methods, and outcomes.
  2. To develop a clearer and shared definition of SDI components and their interactions, so that studies of such components (e.g., geo-portals) can also be assessed for their contribution to the overall SDI framework.
  3. To give priority to longitudinal studies of SDIs in progress, for which an initial assessment was made, to validate the assumptions made, and identify the risk factors involved. This may include self-assessment but the more it is shared and open to scrutiny, the more cumulative knowledge can be developed.
  4. To develop a theoretical framework underpinning the identification of SDI benefits (i.e., what kind of benefits, both positive and negative, would be expected and why from an SDI).
  5. To pay particular attention to identifying user communities and eliciting their assessment of value deriving from an SDI.
  6. To pay particular attention to regional SDIs, and to application-driven approaches as ways to identify more easily stakeholders, user communities, and potential benefits.
  7. To regularly exchange experiences with related fields, particularly in the GI technology, and utilities sectors, and e-government to share results, and find synergies for undertaking joint assessment studies including surveys.
  8. To develop greater understanding of total geo-spatial investments across government programs and develop a baseline against which additional SDI costs can be related to.

Quantifiable impacts

Since 1990’s, a significant amount of time and money have been spent on turning the eGovernment visions into reality. There is no standard way of tracking IT spend across government as a whole, or of assessing its impact. However external estimates suggested that in the UK in 2004 around GBP 14 billion was spent by government on IT. An average of 25% of IT spend was on new projects. The rest was devoted to maintaining legacy systems. At the time of the report, the UK spending on public sector IT amounted to about 1.2 % of GDP and, compared with other countries, was in the upper part of the range. It also rose in real terms over the decade prior to 2004.

Independent reports by Capgemini on the benefits that six of the National Projects could deliver to English councils provide a substantive case for widescale implementation. The estimated average annual values of these benefits (across all English local authorities, for the six projects) were: cost savings: GBP 320 million, increased revenue: GBP 60 million, service improvement: GBP 1,300 million.



Study type

Workshop report

Economy sector

Water, Infrastructure (Transport), Infrastructure (Energy), Retail, Public Sector Local Government, Public Sector Central Government