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White Knights of Spatial Data Infrastructure: The Role and Motivation of Key Individuals.

Craig, William J.

Most of the literature about sharing data has focused on institutional issues and wrongly ignores the key role of individuals. Data sharing across levels of government is necessary if we are to achieve a National Spatial Data Infrastructure; this is not something the federal government can do on its own. Local and state governments are the primary sources for many of the core data layers and supplementary to others. Using Minnesota as an example, there is ample evidence of state and local developing and sharing of data. In each case, one or more key individuals were responsible for developing that data and making it available to others. Nine individuals were interviewed to learn the roles they played and their motivation for making their data available for sharing. Three common themes emerged that explained what motivated them. First and foremost was their idealism, their sense that better data will lead to better decisions, that sharing good data is valuable. Second is enlightened self-interest; by sharing, they got something in return even if it was intangible. Third is their involvement in a professional culture that honors serving society and cooperating with peers. These motivations are similar to those of knights of yore and to our newly adopted GIS code of ethics that focus on serving the needs of others. The GIS profession could encourage more individuals to play the role of White Knight by focusing attention on issues related to these motivating factors.

URISA Journal 16 (2)
Publication date: 
Park Ridge, IL: Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA).
16 (2): 5-13.
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