As the use of geographic information becomes more widespread, the geospatial community is looking toward the institution of standards to guide the production of accurate, accessible and affordable data. However, the use of community-wide standards is sometimes controversial. Short-term costs may be incurred, benefits may appear hazy and organizations may be reluctant to change long-standing ways of doing business. In the long-run, however, standards cut costs, reduce repetitious data collection and make inter-organizational communication far easier.
Cost-effective computing systems and access to current, reliable information depend on the ability to transfer, evaluate, and document data resources and system capabilities. Standards enable these functions. Without standards, many necessary activities and tasks would be difficult, time-consuming or unproductive.
Developing standards involves creating consensus among diverse, diffuse
groups. Organizations with a significant investment in one way of doing business
will promote their solution, but standards are useful only if they are adopted
by a wide variety of organizations. Adopting standards is as much a public
relations challenge as a technical one. Information about the existence,
implementation, and benefits of standards must be widely available. The work of
the Standards Committee of the Minnesota Governor's Council on
Geographic Information focuses on understanding how standards are created and
making information about important new standards readily available.
The costs of complying with standards can include:
With careful planning and incremental implementation, however, many of the
costs of standards can be minimized. New equipment is usually unnecessary; the
need to modify applications and procedures and develop training programs can be
limited by sharing data profiles and determining what portion of a standard
applies; and standards that require replacing existing data can often be adopted
on a "from this day forward" basis in the capturing of new data.
The need for standards is not always apparent in a narrow cost-benefit
analysis, but the costs of not using standards can be great. An inability to
share data or communicate with other organizations because systems or formats
differ wastes time, effort and money. Typical problems include the need to
coordinate incompatible data and recollect existing data for each functional
system and for each generation of a system.