Providing a sustainable spatial data infrastructure creates responsibility and high demand by continually meeting and satisfying the needs of all kinds of users. It is essential to provide the right information at the right level of quality and reliability and at the right time. Geographic information (GI) is today being universally recognised as a key part of the national information infrastructure, especially by government. GI is an enabler in the knowledge economy since the power of geography can be used to underpin the sharing (and trading) of vital georeferenced information collected by all kinds of organisations. From this information reliable conclusions can and will be drawn and decisions made.
However, achieving such an environment does not just happen. It has to be led, nurtured and developed in line with user needs. Funding requires sustained investment, and it all has to be implemented and maintained whether the economy enjoys good times or bad, and through periods of political change. These are all big challenges encountered by just about every national economy.
The aim of many national governments around the world is to establish a reliable and integrated reference base for GI that can underpin the e-economy. This base needs to support government and the commercial sector who need to reference information, and potentially share it with others (eg land ownership) or link it up to form an application.(eg location based services). To achieve this a consistent method of georefererencing is required and the Digital National Framework is intended to fulfil that need in Great Britain.
This paper will describe what has been happening in Great Britain to build on the firm foundations of the past, and develop a modern and sustainable framework for geographic information for the future. In particular it will be shown that the business model adopted by Ordnance Survey in recent years (ie the users pay for the data) has played a key role in securing the ongoing funding of the modern information infrastructure that many nations are now working towards. It will also be seen that this does not mean exorbitant prices and in reality several valuable services are free of charge.