Towards a Global Index of National Spatial Data Infrastructures (GI-NSDI)

Project Leader: Georgina Chandler


Within the environment sector, open, accurate, and exchangeable spatial data can empower the organisations responsible for environmental decision making. Critically, it can aid them in preventing and resolving land use conflicts by encouraging early engagement in ‘problematic’ development projects. Biodiversity conservation and land use planning are inherently spatial, and as increasing pressures are placed on land use, it is vital for decision making to be well-informed and integrated. However, to achieve this a country needs to have the underpinning and supporting infrastructure to allow spatial data to be accurate, transparent, open and interoperable, something that an NSDI can help achieve. The environment sector should, therefore, be investing in the strength of a country’s ability to transparently collect, manage, and share spatial data through their NSDI. Despite this, there is currently neither a global measure of a country's NSDI to perform these functions, nor a way to identify where improvements need to be targeted.

In work completed at Oxford (UK) University in 2015 an index, to benchmark the effectiveness of countries NSDIs from an environmental perspective, was designed. Through a process of expert interviews, research, and pilot testing within WWF priority countries, a final scorecard format and qualifying guidelines for scoring were achieved.

The Index consists of three dimensions; human, technical and legal. For each of these a set of indicators has been identified with a particular focus on issues important to the environment sector, such as transparency, accuracy, and openness of spatial data. This work recognises and acknowledges the previous research such as the INSPIRE state of play and the work of Giff and Crompvoets (2008) and others who have proposed or developed different index for NSDI development. This project draws on and will be informed by the existing research and create a comprehensive index that is policy relevant, useable by a wide range of stakeholders, especially those in the environment sector, and representative of the state of NSDI at the national scale.

Ultimately, the scoring that a comprehensive and stakeholder relevant Index provides will allow investment and decision making to be directed towards problematic areas of NSDI development, and will promote collaboration and motivation between government departments and other stakeholders to improve their spatial data quality, management and availability. There is also the potential for the index to raise awareness of potential barriers to a country effectively reporting spatial data evidence to the Sustainable Development Goals.

The work already completed has built a comprehensive picture of how vital open, accurate, and transparent spatial data are to land use planning and conservation projects, and has identified where any barriers to improvement are. The results of a wider implementation will assist WWF-UK, UN-GGIM and other interested parties, to encourage key actors in each country to make improvements to transparency, accuracy, and availability of data.

The index will be pilot tested within 6 months of commencement and, with the help of a global community (people with an interest in SDI development), subsequently implemented at a global scale. Potentially with profound long-term benefits for improving spatial data, reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals, and for the environment, innovation, and investment.


The objectives of the project are to:

a) Refine the assessment criteria for an index of NSDI assessment and explore the validity of the index and qualifying guidelines for scoring in other sectors;

b) Publish the index and supporting research in a reputable academic and professional journal;

c) Promote the need for a comprehensive global index of NSDI implementation, sustainability and usefulness to all segments of society;

d) Encourage adoption of the index by international bodies, e.g. the World Bank, UN (particularly UN-GGIM) in their investment and other decisions;

e) Secure sufficient resources to commence the process of indexing NSDI;

f) Populate the index of NSDIs to the maximum extent possible within the time, cost and resource constraints.


1. Report on first international workshop to be held at GSDI 15 World Conference in Taipei, 29 November to 2 December 2016;

2. Report on second international (regional) workshop to be held at e.g. UN GGIM Europe meeting in 7-8 June 2017 in Leuven;

3. Launch the index population phase at a global (non-GSDI) conference, such as the UN-GGIM7 meeting August 2017.

4. Publication of the index scores at a high level conference such as the World Bank or UN-GGIM High Level Forum, with the aim that it will be populated with scores for up to 50 countries;

5. Publication of the index on the GSDI website in Q2 or Q3 2018.

6. Final Project report aimed for end of 2018.


Project began on 1 September 2016 and will end on 18 December 2018 (26 months).