For a host of reasons, local government, meaning the operation of society at the local level is where the “rubber meets the road”. Most of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, hence most events that alter our environment or the sequence of our lives, happens there. This is immediately obvious when there is a disaster, whether it is a local event like a major traffic accident or pan-national one like hurricane Katrina, or a continental one like the Asian Tsunami. In such cases, first responders need information. They don’t want to know about jurisdictional boundaries between municipal or state/provincial agencies. They just want data that is as accurate and current as possible.
While the disaster scenario makes this obvious, more slowly moving events (some which are also disasters!) make many if not all of the same demands. There may be more time to paper over the gaps between jurisdictions, but the business of planning, policing, permitting, and developing urban infrastructure equally demands accurate and current information. In fact, if you think of planning/development for a moment as a disaster in slow motion (think climate change); you will see that all of us are in some sense “first responders”.
To meet this need for a seamless, extensible view of the world, local governments are beginning to embrace the GeoWeb. This is not to say that they are all fired about GeoWeb technology, or that the letters GML or KML are suddenly on every developer or councilor’s lips. When I say they are starting to embrace the GeoWeb, I mean that they are starting to expect and demand a seamless and extensible view of the world. They are starting to realize the connectedness of everything, from the subway lines linking municipalities to the watersheds that provide our drinking water to the sewer lines handling our waste. It is this interconnectedness that is at the heart of the GeoWeb, and this realization will have profound consequences for technology deployment at the local level.
Now, I am not saying that local governments, developers and engineering companies are going to go out and change their technologies overnight. Nor am I suggesting that they will need to develop new applications for design, permit administration or any of the host of other applications that support our lives at the local level. The impact of GeoWeb technologies will be more subtle and more pervasive. Successful deployments will be mostly hidden from view – “under the covers” so to speak, but enable the synchronization of views of the world across agency boundaries. This is the promise of the GeoWeb, and it is coming soon to a town near you.