An Overview of the Spatial Data Infrastructure - 2003

Since 1997, the National Spatial Information Framework (NSIF) provided the parameters for a coherent Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) for South Africa. An SDI is characterised by the policies, legislation, standards, human and technical infrastructure that promotes the availability of spatial information for planning and the delivering services, as well as the sharing, utilisation and reuse of applicable spatial information, applications and organisational learning, without unnecessary and costly duplication of effort.

The biggest achievement for the SDI in 2003 was the passing of the Spatial Data Infrastructure Bill (hereafter referred to as the Act) by Parliament on 25 November 2003. It will now be referred to the President for assenting whereafter it will be proclaimed. The Act will also be translated into one of the other official languages. Regulations pertaining to the Act will also be published after the enactment. The Act inter alia deals with:

  • The formal establishment of the South African Spatial Data Infrastructure
  • The Committee for Spatial Information
  • Spatial information standards and prescriptions
  • Capture and publishing of metadata
  • Access to and distribution of spatial information
  • Appointment and accountability of data vendors
  • Agreements on utilisation of spatial information
  • Collaborative maintenance
  • Reporting on data quality
  • Security of spatial information

The SDI dealt with three standards for metadata, land cover classification and unique identifiers. In awaiting the finalisation of the ISO 19115 standard, a metadata standard called SANS 1878 was profiled for South Africa. However, with the release of the final ISO standard 19115 during 2003 as the international metadata standard, it was adopted by Standards SA (SABS) as the official metadata standard for South Africa with the result that SANS 1878 will be amended accordingly. Simple metadata guidelines were drafted from this standard to explain in simple English to users what fields should be captured in SA - mandatory and optional. The standard consists of 9 metadata packages, that each are further divided into classes and mandatory and optional fields. Furthermore the standard for Land Cover classification was completed as SANS 1877 with the help of the GISc community and work on the Unique ID standard (SANS 1876) is near finalisation. The latter is a standard unique to SA at present (thus not worked on by ISO).

The Policy Subcommittee of the Committee on Spatial Information (CSI) finalised the Pricing Policy and it was also approved by the CSI. This policy is applicable to all organs of state and aims to make spatial related products available to users according to the principle of cost of fulfilling user request (COFUR). The second policy being developed by the SDI is called the Data Custodian Policy and centres around the responsibilities of data custodians. The Information Flow Policy deals with collaborative maintenance agreements between organs of state at various levels. Both the Data Custodian Policy and Information Flow Policy are still in progress and dealt with by the Policy Subcommittee that will refer it to the CSI for approval after it has been finalised.

GISSA participats in both the SDI and now especially in the newly formed CSI in order to protect the interests of our members.

Requests for more information on the legislation, policies or standards could be directed to Paul Strydom or Mimi Chauke.

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