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Realising the value of data for government land and environmental management – starts with data stewardship

This is a follow up to a recent blog article focusing on data stewardship, the most tasking but most valuable feature of developing geospatial data infrastructures across government, utilities and transport.

Matthew White, Senior Business Development Manager at 1Spatial follows up this article, by focusing on government land and environmental management.

Government departments, at all levels, are the custodians and users of accurate geospatial data.  They are uniquely placed to see across their geographies and to uncover new insights through modelling and analysis. But, they must also govern data from disparate sources to ensure consistency and quality.  At the same time, citizens and businesses are increasingly looking for government to digitise, publish and provide access to authoritative data, for example open data.

As discussed in my last blog article, increasingly our data infrastructure is becoming as important as our physical infrastructure.  The Open Data Institute (ODI) describe data infrastructures as typically consisting of data assets, the organisations that operate and maintain them and tools and processes for using and governing the data.  The ODI have recently launched their strategy which refers to bringing about sustainable behaviour change within companies and governments that hold and use data.  The ODI’s strategy states three activities that create impact from data.  Firstly, stewarding data - collecting it, maintaining it and sharing it.  Secondly, creating information from that data - in the form of products and services, analyses and insights, or stories and visualisations.  Thirdly, deciding what to do - informed by information from multiple sources along with experience and understanding.  So, what does this all mean for land and environmental management data infrastructures?

The UK government recently published A Green Future - 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment policy document, setting out an approach to agriculture, forestry, land use and fishing that puts the environment first.  Land, water, wildlife, plants, soil and air provide us with our basic needs, including food, energy and health.  Delivery of the 25 year plan will need to be underpinned by quality evidence, especially as our environment is for ever changing.  Evidence needs to be maintained, trustworthy and communicated in an open and transparent way.  Open and accessible data (evidence) infrastructures will be fundamental to delivering this plan. Organisations will need to explore and implement ways in which data can support and improve resilience, environmental and health benefits achieved through environmental net gain and natural capital.

Government land and environmental management organisations are developing and maintaining data infrastructures to represent physical and natural infrastructures, for example farmland, hedges, woodlands, footpaths, rivers and streams, coastal margins, floodplains, flood and coastal defences.  Typically physical and natural infrastructures are represented as explicit geospatial data and therefore geospatial data infrastructures are becoming increasingly important for integrating environmental economics with geospatial data for modelling environmental net gain, natural capital and managing natural resources.

Land and environmental management organisations are the stewards of geospatial data in every country.  In a world of instant and “good enough” geospatial data, these organisations are a source of definitive, digitised and authoritative digital records.  But, they often struggle to meet increased demand for their services and increased value expectations from data.

Maintaining accurate digital records or evidence for thousands of ever-changing records associated with land and the environment infrastructure is a challenge.  Organisations need effective geospatial data infrastructures to digitise these records, broker records and automate the validation of records, improving efficiency and effectiveness without increasing operating costs.

How efficient and effective is your geospatial data infrastructure?

By adopting an automated approach land and environmental management organisations can improve data stewardship as a result, without compromising on quality.  Automated data stewardship can run at the point of collection – on surveyors’ mobile devices – to validate digital entries and avoid the need for expensive re-visits.  Automated data stewardship can also run against existing data or act as a broker for new data sets from partner or contractor organisations.

Do you adopt an automated approach to geospatial data stewardship and data brokerage?

1Spatial works with government land and environmental management organisations around the world to make the process of geospatial data stewardship more efficient and enable the creation of information from data.

There is a growing need for government land and environmental management organisations to focus on data stewardship as the foundation for geospatial data infrastructure.  Efficient and effective automated data stewardship will enable the realisation of the value of data, creating information from data and subsequently deciding what to.  This is becoming ever more important in a world where evidence (data) based driven approaches to decision making are growing exponentially for resilience, environmental and health benefits.