Work starts on FGDC shared geospatial platform

The Federal Geographic Data Committee is creating a shared geospatial information technology infrastructure for civilian agencies that should reduce the number of single-agency portals.

Work on the project, which will include cost-reimbursable cloud services, began earlier this fiscal year, said Jerry Johnston, Interior Department geospatial information officer, while speaking Oct. 9 at the GeoInt 2012 Symposium in Orlando, Fla. (recordings of conference sessions are now available online).

The shared platform will be different from past efforts to centrally collect geospatial data in that some data will gain status as an authoritative source. The committee will continue to catalog and expose geospatial data from all trusted partners, Johnston said, but the current situation in which some data sources are informally known to be authoritative but not formally tagged in that way will end.

The platform will also give agencies an option to procure cloud-based services for common geospatial system-related functions, including identity management, Johnston said.

Within the next 6 months, the program office – Interior is the managing agency for the project – will create virtual spaces for permanent geospatial communities of interest, he added. A goal is to also easily create temporary communities of interest as needed, centered around a natural disaster or other incidents.

"That's something we think we can do in hours, once we get the templates built, and not take days and days to put out there," Johnston said.

Impetus for the platform came during review of federal response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, during which Johnston said he observed multiple agencies each with its own portal for aggregating and displaying geospatial information.

"I call it portalpalooza, and I think we have that everywhere, where everybody has a portal," Johnston said.

For more:
- watch the panel during which Johnston spoke (embedded video)

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