G7 Pilot Project

Eliot Christian (echristi@USGS.GOV)
Fri, 21 Apr 1995 06:57:46 -0400


Message-Id: <9504211117.AA23253@mocha.bunyip.com>
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 1995 06:57:46 -0400
To: ace-mg@esusda.gov, sustain@rtknet.org, wais-talk@wais.com,
From: echristi@USGS.GOV (Eliot Christian)
Subject: G7 Pilot Project

Below is the text of a pilot project approved by the G7 (Canada, France,
Germany Italy, Japan, U.K., and U.S.) at the Ministerial conference in
Brussels. The idea is to build on existing international efforts to create a
Global Information Locator service definition, modeled on the U.S.
Government Information Locator; to further interconnect catalogs and
directories around the world and ensure their accessibility to developed and
developing countries; and to facilitate the exchange and integration of
information about the Earth for use in a variety of applications. Ten other
piot projects were also approved: Global Inventory, Global Interoperability
for Broadband Networks,  Cross-Cultural Training and Education, Electronic
Museums and Galleries, Electronic Libraries, Global Emergency Management,
Global Healthcare Management, Government Online, Global Marketplace for
SME's, and Maritime Information Systems.

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The Environment and Natural Resources Management Project

Description/Scope

Governments, multilateral organizations, non-governmental organizations,
educational and research institutions and private bodies maintain a wealth
of information about the state of the Earth and its inhabitants. That
information can have a profound impact on our ability to protect our
environment, manage natural resources, prevent and respond to disasters and
ensure sustainable development. However, the full potential of global
information holdings is not being realized because they are not yet
integrated in a way that facilitates informed decision making by policy
makers and individual citizens. The Global Information Infrastructure is
making that crucial integration possible. Already, organizations like the
Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) are working to improve
linkages among satellite operators and supporting data systems. As the GII
progresses, in situ observations can be better managed and shared, and
space-based data will be integrated more easily with other types of
observations. Observations can be combined with information on demographics,
economics, health, policy and environmental technology to enable better
understanding of the interactions between human activity and the state of
the environment. The G-7 members should recognize the importance of
enhancing global environmental information exchange and integration, build
consensus on a global information framework, and continue to support
existing network and standards activities. The G-7 members should also
commit to a joint project that would enhance and invigorate ongoing efforts
while demonstrating the potential of a full-fledged GII. That project would
enable use of the information infrastructure and information management
technologies to address key environmental issues.

Information relevant to environmental issues is held by numerous entities.
Even within individual governments, data is often divided between different
agencies and individual offices. While emerging information technologies
have enabled some information sharing, it is still not possible to easily
identify, locate and access all of the information resources that might be
brought to bear on important environmental issues. Users could search
distributed databases of observations, statistics, and other information
from all relevant sources worldwide if these data were accessible through a
coordinated global network.

The G-7 should demonstrate the potential benefits of such coordination by
recognizing and supporting ongoing international initiatives and expanding
them to cover the broad spectrum of environmental information exchange
needs. Attention should be directed to several levels of information
infrastructure: indexes of data sets that already exist, interconnection of
catalogs and directories describing databases and how to obtain data from
them, sharing and increasing compatibility of actual data and information to
apply to specific projects, and digitizing and managing data that has been
collected, but is held in individual repositories in non-electronic forms.
The G-7 would expand and test interoperability by exchanging and attempting
to integrate information regarding specific issues of concern to developed
and developing nations. Possible target areas could include the issues
identified in Agenda 21, the action plan endorsed at the Earth Summit. Those
issues include deforestation, biodiversity and desertification. Other
possible target issues include air quality, stratospheric ozone, vegetation
cover, land use, hydrological hazards, water resources, and marine data. The
long-term result of this effort would be a virtual library of information
held in globally distributed electronic databases accessible on emerging
electronic networks. 

The project would not require new data collection or network construction,
but rather would capitalize on existing data resources and network efforts.
The project would maximize the return on previously invested funds by
synthesizing the data currently collected, making them much more valuable
than they ever could have been in isolation. The project would focus on
enhancing access to data already in digital databases by adopting compatible
technical and policy approaches and sharing both data and data description
information (metadata). The participants would begin by sharing descriptions
of their currently available databases and their involvement in ongoing
international coordination efforts. Successful focused projects already
underway would be evaluated as models for G-7 cooperation, and a plan would
be developed for achieving a fully integrated multi-layer information system
for issues related to the environment. Efforts focusing on specific
environmental topics would be identified and pursued. Those projects would
build upon ongoing projects and apply the lessons learned to date in both
successful and unsuccessful experiences, with results monitored and reported
back to the G-7.

Objectives

The objective of this G-7 joint project would be to increase the electronic
linkage and integration of distributed databases of information relevant to
the environment. A group of experts, representing each participating body,
would build on existing international efforts to create a Global Information
Locator service definition, such as the U.S. Government Information Locator;
to further interconnect catalogs and directories around the world and ensure
their accessibility to developed and developing countries; and to facilitate
the exchange and integration of information about the Earth for use in a
variety of applications. The project would demonstrate the breadth of
information already existing internationally, and show the mutual benefits
of improved accessibility for policy makers, researchers, and the general
public. 

Expected Impacts

The project would protect the environment by harnessing the resources of
researchers and policy makers worldwide who are attempting to solve
environmental problems. A global network of information regarding the
current state of the environment, demographic and economic statistics, and
successful environmental policies and technologies would enable public
policy makers and citizens to make more informed decisions about actions
that impact the environment. Use of the information contained in the virtual
database, and the mechanisms developed for further sharing of environmental
information, would also promote improved natural resources management,
emergency management, and sustainable development. 

Effective policy making with regard to natural resource utilization depends
on assessments of the effects of utilization on regional and global
environments. Bringing together information from environmental observing
systems and historical information repositories would provide the guidance
needed for successful management of the natural resources critical to human
survival and to industrial activity.

Up-to-date and comprehensive environmental information from a variety of
sources would support monitoring and assessment of natural disaster
conditions, such as the recent flooding in Europe and earthquakes in Japan.

Sharing environmental and related information would facilitate informed
decision making and thus promote sustainable development around the globe.
For example, with access to information about environmental technologies
already developed elsewhere, developing nations would be able to deploy
advanced technologies for pollution prevention, waste minimization and
energy efficiency, thus promoting sustainable development. Agenda 21
emphasizes that sustainable development requires the kind of global
partnership exemplified by this project.

Finally, data sharing and progress toward integration would enhance
governmental efficiency. The project would maximize the return on previously
invested government funds by synthesizing the data currently collected,
making them much more valuable than they ever could have been in isolation.

Implementation

Existing Collaborative Activities

This project would capitalize on existing data resources and networks. A
brief sample of existing or planned collaborative or interdisciplinary
activities involving environmental data and information networking include:

-- The Global Observation Information Network (GOIN) initiative, endorsed by
the U.S.-Japan Common Agenda for Cooperation in Global Perspective and led
by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Japanese
Science and Technology Agency. The GOIN initiative is working toward
comprehensive connectivity and interoperability between U.S. and Japanese
environmental networks for global observation data and was undertaken as a
possible prototype for broadening to a global environmental network,
discussions of which have begun in the Committee on Earth Observation
Satellites.

-- The Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS). CEOS, originally an
outgrowth of the G-7 which has subsequently expanded to include numerous
other countries and organizations, serves as a focal point for international
coordination of space-related Earth observation activities. CEOS coordinates
the development of compatible data products, formats, services, applications
and policies. CEOS working groups have developed successful ongoing
experiments in interoperability of data catalogs across international
networks. CEOS sponsors the CEOS International Directory Network (IDN), an
international effort for expediting information on available datasets for
researchers and other users through three Coordinating Nodes, which maintain
copies of the IDN available on-line at no cost to the user. The CEOS IDN
also has broad involvement through cooperating nodes in other countries.
Information technology for establishing virtual database directories may
provide a vehicle for upgrading the access to and value of the IDN.

-- The European Earth Observing System (EEOS). The European Union together
with the European Space Agency, Eumetsat, and other space organizations in
Europe is leading a project to set up this comprehensive data distribution
network in Europe, which will support the environment and will be designed
to be interoperable with such networks in other parts of the world.

-- The International Organization for Standardization ISO 10162/19163. This
standard will include the International Standardized Profile for a Global
Information Locator service definition, modeled on the U.S. Government
Information Locator Service (GILS) Application Profile.

-- The International Organization for Standardization Technical Committee on
Geomatics/Geographic Information (TC211). The committee is working to
develop standards for geospatial data.

-- Global Climate, Global Ocean, and Global Terrestrial Observing Systems
(GCOS, GOOS, and GTOS), established by certain United Nations agencies and
the International Council of Scientific Unions.  The systems are designed to
meet the scientific observation and data requirements for monitoring the
climate, oceans and terrestrial spheres.

-- Regional networks and institutes for Global Change Research Initiative,
endorsed by the U.S.-Japan Common Agenda. These include the Inter-American
Institute for Global Change Research, Asia-Pacific Network on Global Change
Research, and European Network for Research in Global Change.

-- The U.S. Global Change Data and Information System (GCDIS) and its
participating agencies' systems. The federal agencies involved in the U.S.
Global Change Research Program are cooperating in developing the GCDIS,
which builds on each agency's mission and resources and links its data and
information resources to those of other agencies and to users. The approach
to implementation of GCDIS is not to create a whole new environmental
information system for the agencies, but rather to develop a layer of
interoperability on top of existing systems to arrive at an integrated
environmental data and information system.

-- The inter-agency U.S. Federal Geographic Data Committee, which is working
on activities to evolve the National Spatial Data Infrastructure to
facilitate access to highest quality geospatial data among all levels of
government and within the private sector in the U.S. This effort involves
metadata, an Internet based electronic clearinghouse, and geospatial data
standards.

-- The UK Inter-agency Committee on Global Environmental Change, which
oversees development of GENIE. GENIE will bring together catalogue and
directory information about environmental data sets within the U.K.

-- United Nations efforts, including INFOTERRA, Global Environmental
Monitoring System, Global Resource Information Database, and Sustainable
Development Network.

-- Environment Canada's Green Lane initiative, which provides a model for
sharing environmental information with the public via the World Wide Web.

-- Activities of the European Environment Agency.

Wherever possible, the virtual database created by the G-7 joint project
should be interoperable with the above efforts. Thus, both the importance of
ongoing projects and the usefulness of integrating them would be highlighted.

Types of Participants Involved/Required

The virtual database could initially be constructed by linking the data of
participating G-7 nations and their ongoing collaborative efforts.  However,
the usefulness of the database would be enhanced by participation of other
nations, international scientific research programs, the various programs of
the United Nations System and other international organizations,
non-governmental organizations, universities and private entities. 

Basic Conditions for Participation

This project would not aim to collect new data. Participants would need to
be willing to make existing digitized data available for electronic data
exchange. The data would be maintained by each contributing body. 

Participation would require network connectivity, willingness to make
existing data available for electronic data exchange, willingness to
cooperate on efforts to promote interoperability, and commitment to
maintaining data quality.

Mechanisms for Possible Extension to Other Countries

Non-G-7 nations and other interested parties would be encouraged to
participate in the project, since the usefulness of the database would be
enhanced by a diversity of data sources. 

In countries with limited computing facilities, national nodes could be
established where all of a country's contributions could be archived and
added to the system. Entities with limited resources or limited access to
communications infrastructure might be able to enter into partnerships with
participants willing to add the newcomers' data to their on-line collections. 

Full-fledged global participation would depend on expansion of network
connectivity, which is especially limited in sub-Sahara Africa and the
Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union.

Estimated Cost

This project would require few new resources because it would utilize
existing networks and existing data collections. Staff time would have to be
devoted to efforts to collaborate on standards. Data providers interested in
participating would then need to take necessary actions to make their data
comply with those standards.

Timetable

The project will involve the following actions, progress on which will be
reported to the G-7 at fora like the upcoming summit in Halifax:

-- Convening of a group of experts, including representatives from G-7
nations and others interested in contributing, to coordinate ongoing
efforts, identify areas that should be addressed in order to facilitate
further interoperability and integration, and develop a plan for achieving a
fully integrated multi-layer information system for issues related to the
environment;

-- Identification of target issue areas in which to apply the ideas and
facilitate the goals generated by the expert group;

-- Identification of data to be contributed;

-- Establishment of a data index and virtual database according to protocols
agreed to by the expert group.

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Eliot Christian, US Geological Survey, 802 National Center, Reston VA 22092
echristi@usgs.gov Phone(703)648-7245 FAX(703)648-7069