Local-government data sharing: Evaluating the foundations of spatial data infrastructures

F. Harvey, D. Tulloch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


This paper presents a typology of local-government data sharing arrangements in the US at a time when spatial data infrastructures (SDI) are moving into a second generation. In the first generation, the US National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) theoretically involved a pyramid of data integration resting on local-government data sharing. Availability of local-government data is the foundation for all SDI-related data sharing in this model. However, first-generation SDI data-sharing activities and principles have gained only a tenuous hold in local governments. Some formalized data sharing occurs, but only infrequently in response to SDI programmes and policies. Previous research suggests that local-government data sharing aligns with immediate organizational and practical concerns rather than state or national policies and programmes. We present research findings echoing extending these findings to show that local-government data sharing is largely informal in nature and is undertaken to support existing governmental activities. NSDI principles remain simply irrelevant for the majority of surveyed local governments. The typology we present distinguishes four distinct types of local-government data sharing arrangements that reflect institutional, political, and economic factors. The effectiveness of second generation, client-service-based SDI will be seriously constrained if the problems of local government take-up fail to be addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)743-768
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Geographical Information Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was made possible through support provided by the US Federal Geographic Data Committee and the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science. We wish to acknowledge Tiffany Mueller and Tamara Shapiro for their assistance with conducting and analysing the surveys. We also thank the many people across the US who assisted us by providing time for interviews and materials. Portions of this research were presented at the URISA conference in 2002 and International Cartographic Congress 2003. Comments from session participants helped us greatly in preparing this article. We also wish to acknowledge the thorough review of the first version of this article and the excellent comments that have helped us greatly improve the presentation of this research. We take responsibility for any errors and omissions, and are grateful to those who brought them to our attention.


  • Data sharing
  • Local government
  • Spatial data infrastructure
  • US


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