The Directive does not require the authorities to collect new data, but to improve the usability of existing data, such as electronic maps and spatial databases, which will be a major challenge. The European Commission estimates that meeting the objectives of the Directive will cost the member states some 3-5 million euros a year over the next ten years. According to the impact assessment of Inspire, the EU could benefit to the tune of one billion euros per annum from improvements in the use and usability of spatial data.
In Finland, several hundred millions of euros are spent every year on activities in which spatial data play an important role. Furthermore, several tens of millions of euros are spent on the collection and maintenance of spatial data and the production of services based on them. It is estimated that the turnover of business based on the use and utilisation of spatial data will pass the EUR hundred million mark over the next few years.
Spatial data means geographical place-related data that is most effectively presented on a digital map. Geographical information systems are often referred to with the acronym GIS. A GIS may contain various datasets, and as the data is digital, the way it is displayed can be modified and the data analysed in various ways.
What is spatial data?
Geographic information applications can, for example, be based on an aerial photograph with a superimposed 3-dimensional model containing the topographic elevation data. The topmost data are the boundary lines of landholdings. By clicking on an object, the user can view information on the surface area, population and characteristics of a farm and even the farm ownerís mobile telephone number, if the user has access to this information. Each raster in the map (pixel or object) contains the data on its location in the system of coordinates.
Geographic information is a useful method for displaying matters with a spatial dimension. Maps served the same purpose in a more restricted manner before computers came along. High-tech geographic information programs enable us to calculate the position of the boundaries between catchment areas, for instance, or identify locations where it would be unwise to build a supermarket, without even having to pick up a pencil. The map view can be altered at the touch of a button.
BY LIISA-MAIJA AUKIA
ILLUSTRATION BY LIISA-MAIJA AUKIA AND SANNA RAUTIAINEN