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The role of collaboration in spatial data infrastructures.


Geoinformation has become indispensable for solving issues concerned with public safety, spatial planning, the environment, and providing e-services to citizens and companies (European Commission 2007, VROM 2008). Many initiatives since the early 1990s aimed at increasing the availability and accessibility of geographic information through the development of spatial data infrastructures (SDIs) (Onsrund 1999, Masser 1999, Crompvoets 2006). These initiatives seek to facilitate accessing and sharing of spatial data, to reduce the duplication of spatial data collection by both users and producers, and to enable better utilization of spatial data and associated services (Grus, Crompvoets, and Bregt 2010). It is believed that through well-established and properly functioning SDIs, the general economic, social, and environmental benefits can be realized (Masser 2007). SDIs have the potential to spatially enable governments by providing better service to decision makers, politicians, and societies (Rajabifard et al. 2003, Masser et al. 2008). Nonetheless, SDIs are facing challenges to attract users and to meet the requirements of their stakeholders (Georgiadou et al. 2010, Nedovic-Budic et al. 2008, Budhathoki et al. 2008).

Several authors have suggested that stakeholder collaboration plays a key role within SDIs (Nedovic-Budic and Pinto 2000, Warnest 2005, McDougall 2006). Within SDIs, different actors must work together, including planners and decision makers, data collectors, and analysts (De Man 2013). Involved stakeholders need to share experiences and resources to develop SDIs (Akinyemi 2011). Nevertheless, SDIs often are hampered by fragmentation and lack of collaboration between stakeholders (Thellufsen et al. 2009, De Andrade et al. 2011). SDIs remain complex because of the great variety and large number of stakeholders and their different needs (Grus et al. 2010). Moreover, the development of SDIs is a dynamic process (Koerten 2011). As SDIs emerge, the number of stakeholders involved and the relations between them increases. Organizational structures to define SDI policies and practices are changing, emphasizing partnerships, social networks, user participation, and multisectoral collaboration (Craglia and Annoni 2007, Budhathoki et al. 2008, Dfaz et al. 2011). Nevertheless, little research has been conducted that looks explicitly at critical aspects for stakeholders collaboration and evolving dynamics of collaboration processes. More effort is needed to examine stakeholder interaction and collaboration processes within SDIs (Mc Dougall 2006, Elwood 2008, Vandenbroucke et al. 2009).

The term collaboration is ambiguous but generally is defined as stakeholders working together toward a shared goal. By working together, individual entities can pool scarce resources and duplication of services can be minimized to achieve an objective that would not otherwise be possible to obtain as separate actors working independently (Gadja 2004, Frey et al. 2006). Collaboration processes have been analyzed in different branches of science, including public management (Ansell and Gash 2008, Daley 2009, Navarrete et al. 2010), organizational science (Podolny and Page 1998, Todeva and Knoke 2005), and business management (Powell 1990, Camarinha-Matos and Afsarmanesh 2006, Allee 2008). Analyzing critical factors and evolving dynamics can help to understand and evaluate collaboration processes and to develop effective collaboration strategies (D'amour et al. 2005, 0degard, 2006, Fletcher et al. 2009). Much depends on the purpose and the application domain--which factors are relevant and how collaborations evolve (San Martin-Rodriguez et al. 2005).

This research presents an exploratory study on the factors and dynamics of collaboration processes in the context of SDIs. We explored collaboration within two case studies: the national SDIs of the Netherlands and Spain. Our overall aim is to gain a better understanding of critical collaboration factors for the development and implementation of SDIs. In the next sections, we will further elaborate on the applied research methodology and the case studies will be described. We then will present our research findings, reflect on them, and draw more general conclusions.


To explore the factors and dynamics of SDI collaboration processes, we applied an interpretative approach aiming at theory building, based on an inductive approach (Yin 2003, Pare 2004, Andrade 2009). Interpretative research can help researchers understand human thought and action in their social and organizational context (Klein 1999). Insights are derived from the specific phenomena studied, to illuminate particular features and patterns (Neuvel 2009). It moves from specific observations to broader generalizations and theories. Case studies are an interesting research method in interpretative research, for they can provide in-depth understanding of specific phenomena (Benbasat et al. 1987, Yin 2003). In addition, through case studies, phenomena can be studied in their context and, therefore, can provide context-dependent knowledge (Pare 2004). Because our study aims at a more in-depth understanding of SDI collaboration in the social and organizational context of the SDI development, an interpretative case-study approach was considered appropriate for this research.

Data to explore SDI collaboration processes were collected in two case studies. The Netherlands and Spain were selected as case studies, because of the familiarity of the authors with the SDIs, the availability of documents, and the possibility to interview key stakeholders. Both countries have well-established national SDIs with the engagement of many stakeholders (SADL 2011a, b). On the other hand, institutional and organizational structures of both countries are different. This offers the opportunity to reflect and compare as well generic collaboration factors as context specific factors.

For data collection, semistructured interviews were conducted in April and May of 2012 for both case studies. The familiarity of the authors with both SDIs enabled them to identify, on the basis of personal contacts and available documentation, individuals with central roles in the coordination of the implementation process. For both SDIs, six experts were initially approached, of whom 11 finally participated in our semistructured interviews. Taking into consideration their positions, experience, and familiarity with the topic, they have an accurate understanding of their organizations' positions and a general overview about stakeholder collaboration within their SDI. They included the national SDI policy coordinator, an initiator of early SDI development, a key technical SDI coordinator, a representative from data providers, a regional SDI coordinator, and an SDI research coordinator. This provided us with different perspectives and enabled a more in-depth understanding of SDI collaboration.

The 11 interviewees were interviewed about: their own roles and motivation to be engaged in the SDI development; the importance, drivers, and dynamics of the SDI collaboration process in their national SDIs; and their perspectives on critical collaboration factors for the development and implementation of the national SDI. Table 1 presents the interview questions that served as guidelines. However, the order of the questions asked depended on the responses of each interviewee. The interviews took about one hour each.

In our analysis of the results, to clarify how our conclusions were derived, citations were used to make arguments of interviewees explicit. Furthermore, the data collected through interviews were validated with documentary evidence in the form of policy documents, monitoring reports, and academic work dealing with the cases involved. As a first step toward our analysis of collaboration within SDIs, we start, in the next section, with a description of the development trajectory and the organizational context of each case study.


The Spanish National SDI

In Spain, the national SDI was initiated in 2002 with the establishment of a working group for the definition and development of the "Infraestructura de Datos Espaciales de Espana." Since then, the SDI has been developed and implemented under the supervision of the Geographic High Council, supported by the National Geographic Institute, several ministries and regional and local governments. Central to the Spanish national SDI has been the development of a national geoportal, which has been online since July of 2004 (SADL 2011a). The national geoportal integrates servers, services, nodes, geoportals, and resources of different SDI initiatives in Spain. Originally, the Spanish SDI has been launched with no fixed regulations, but in 2007 an organizational structure for public geographic data and services providers on the national level was established with the approval of the Royal Decree 1545/2007. A second legal framework was approved in 2010, transposing the European INSPIRE directive (European Commission 2007) into a national law (Jefatura del Estado 2010). This law is obligatory for stakeholders at all administrative levels and provides the national SDI with a strong legal basis. With this legal framework, the Geographic High Council acts as a management board for the SDI, watching the implementation of the development of the national SDI, with a specific focus on INSPIRE (SADL 2011a).

The basic philosophy of the national Spanish SDI is to create an SDI where all levels of government can share their geographic information and make it available for the citizens. The idea from the beginning was that regional/local governments needed to set up their own SDIs, which were integrated to create the national SDI. On the national level, the servers, services, nodes, geoportals, and resources of distinct SDI initiatives are integrated, creating an interoperable infrastructure (Mezcua-Rodrfquez 2009). Participation implies free access and reuse of network data and services for the participants. The national Spanish SDI tries to involve all the relevant stakeholders in the Spanish GI sector. National, regional, and local government, universities, and the private sector are participating in the development of the SDI (SADL 2011a). Working groups are guiding the implementation with the participation of 165 individual members from more than 60 organizations. However, not all stakeholders on the different administrative levels are participating in the development of the SDI.

The Dutch National SDI

The development of the Dutch SDI dates back to 1990 when Ravi, a network organization for geoinformation, was established. Initially, Ravi was an official advisory committee on land information for the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment. In 1993, it became an independent consultative body for geoinformation, its members being representatives from various public sector bodies (Van Loenen and Kok 2002). This led to the publication of the Ravi structure plan for land information, which can be seen as the initiation of the Dutch SDI (Kok van Loenen 2005). In 1995, Ravi extended this vision, which initiated the start of the National Clearinghouse Geo-Information in 1997, a metadata catalogue describing geodatasets owned by the participating SDI stakeholders (Koerten 2011). In 2007, Ravi and the national clearinghouse foundation merged to form Geonovum. Since then, Geonovum acts as the executive SDI committee in the Netherlands with the task of coordinating the development of the SDI and providing better access to geoinformation in the public sector. On a strategic level, the Geo-information Council, established in 2006, advises the Ministry on strategic actions relating to the geoinformation sector (Grus et al. 2010).

Since 2008, the Dutch SDI is being constructed by implementing the vision and strategic plan called GIDEON (VROM 2008). The document has been developed in close cooperation with 21 stakeholders and aims to develop a key geoinformation facility for the Netherlands that all parties in Dutch society will be able to use. GIDEON establishes four goals and seven implementation strategies that were intended to be realized by 2011. Various parties have been working together to execute GIDEON. The implementation strategies include: the implementation of the legal binding frameworks for statuary key georegister and the European INSPIRE directive; supply optimization of governmental data, e.g., by creating a new Dutch SDI clearinghouse; chain cooperation to increase the use of geoinformation; and promotion of collaboration between government, businesses, and universities on innovation and economic value creation. The implementation process has been coordinated by the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment (now the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment). The Geo-information Council, with representatives of all important governmental SDI stakeholders, is acting as the steering committee for the implementation of GIDEON. By the end of 2011, important progress was made in implementing GIDEON and development of the Dutch national SDI. However, as stated in the SDI monitoring report, not all implementation strategies have been fully executed and not all objectives have been reached (Geonovum 2011).


A wide variety of factors that determine the SDI collaboration process were mentioned in our interviews. On the basis of an analysis of the main interview themes, a distinction was made between the reasons why stakeholders were motivated to get involved in the collaboration process; critical factors that facilitated the SDI collaboration process; barriers that hampered collaboration between SDI stakeholders; and the dynamics of the collaboration process. Subsequently, for each theme, statements of the interviewees were abstracted. Table 2 summarizes the statements of the interviewees, together with the number of experts of the national SDIs of Spain (five interviews in total) and the Netherlands (six interviews in total) who made the statements. The number of times statements were made by interviewees can be regarded as an indication of the importance of different factors and the way the collaboration process has evolved. They offer a point of departure for the analysis, but those statements depend very much on the context of each SDI and the overall viewpoint of the interviewee. Therefore, they needed to be studied in more detail. The following section further discusses the differences and similarities between the two case studies and elaborates on the statements made about collaboration factors and the dynamics of the collaboration process.


The major motivation for stakeholders to become involved in the development of both national SDIs was to streamline information flows and to make information available for wider use. Interviewees of both SDIs described the SDI concept as attractive for the effective management of geographic information supply in the public sector and for making geographic data and services more widely available. In Spain, stakeholders saw the necessity "to link information resources from different administrations" [SP5] and "making information of public administrations available and accessible" [SP2]. In the Netherlands, the development of the SDI should "streamline geographic information supply in the public domain" [NL1]. It was developed corresponding to the general concept of e-governance: "governmental (geographic) information should be easily available and accessible for everybody" [NL3].

Another main motivation for collaboration stated by interviewees from both SDIs is that individual organizations in the public administrations are lacking resources and knowledge to work independently on the implementation of SDIs and the creation of SDI facilities. This statement is much related to sharing of experiences and good practices, which also were stated by several interviewees of both SDIs. Interviewees consider the national SDI a good platform to help each other and collaborate on specific projects [SP5, NL5]. Furthermore, a main driver for SDI development and collaboration in both SDIs was the European INSPIRE directive. INSPIRE created a lot of awareness and exerted pressure from the "outside." In the Netherlands, "it forced stakeholders to take action and define together with other stakeholders their role in the SDI" [NL3]. In Spain, INSPIRE also created much awareness among Spanish stakeholders of the SDI concept and stressed the importance of participating in the development of the SDI [SP1].

Efficient information supply is mainly an important motivation for collaboration within the Dutch SDI. Interviewees stated that a main objective of the Dutch SDI is "to facilitate efficient geo-information exchange and supply" [NL1, NL3, NL6]. This statement is much related to "avoiding duplications of efforts," which is stated more by Spanish interviewees. They consider the INSPIRE principle of "data should be collected only once and kept where it can be maintained most effectively" as important motivation and guideline for collaboration with the Spanish SDI [SP1, SP2, SP4]. Only one interviewee of the Dutch SDI stated better quality of SDI information and services as motivation for collaboration. Other interviewees didn't explicitly state it as important argument for their involvement in the SDI collaboration process.

Motivations for SDI collaboration stated by interviewees of both national SDIs are rather similar. Nevertheless, relevant differences can be noticed. Because of the structure of the Spanish government, decentralized in three main levels with a high level of responsibilities and self-government, collaborations within the Spanish national SDI have been focused on integrating regional/ local initiatives. "Collaboration in the context of an SDI was seen as a solution for geographic Information sharing between different administrative levels in Spain [SP2]". Collaboration within the Dutch SDI has been more focused on an efficient management of geoinformation supply throughout the government. Main motivations of collaboration between Dutch stakeholders were efficiency gains and better performance of the Dutch government, in line with the e-governance concept.


The attitude and engagement of stakeholders with the SDI collaboration process have been stated by all interviewees as a critical factor in the development of their national SDI. Interviewees of both national SDIs stated that SDI development depends on good personal contacts and getting the right people together. In Spain, the working groups for the national SDI played an important role in facilitating collaboration by establishing personal relations and mutual understanding [SP3]. In the working groups, knowledge exchange took place and issues were discussed to further develop the SDI [SP1 and SP4]. In the Netherlands, there are no specific working groups for the development of the national SDI, but the Dutch SDI stakeholders "know each other and know their responsibilities" [NL3]. Collaboration is described as informal. There is "willingness and engagement to collaborate among stakeholders" [NL6].

Another critical factor stated by all interviewees of both national SDIs is the establishment of organizational and coordination structures that are supportive of collaboration. In Spain, all interviewees argued that establishing organizational structures was crucial for the SDI development and collaboration. The interviewees agree that the SDI legal framework approved in 2010, transposing INSPIRE, has been an important step toward better structured and more formalized collaboration. However, SP2 and SP5 argued that Spain is still facing difficulties to establish the required SDI coordination mechanism. In the Netherlands, the establishment of Geonovum and the Geographic Information Council has been, according to all interviewees, critical to better organize and structure SDI collaboration. This has been further supported by legal frameworks like INSPIRE and the core registers, which are "forcing different stakeholders to collaborate and therefore have played an important role in the SDI development" [NL2]. Furthermore, two interviewees of both national SDIs mentioned the importance of defining the responsibilities and roles of the stakeholders. "For good collaboration roles need to be clear; stakeholders need to have a common interest and need to be complementary" [NL5].

Having a shared vision and objective for the SDI development is seen as critical by almost all interviewees. For the Dutch SDI, the approval of the SDI vision and implementation strategy GIDEON in 2007 has been critical for the SDI development. GIDEON defined an ambition and objectives for different stakeholders stimulating the collaboration process [NL5, NL2, NL6]. GIDEON served as guidance for the development of the Dutch SDI and stimulated the involvement of stakeholders with the national SDI [NL4]. In Spain, SP1 and SP4 argued that the INSPIRE directive and its implementation worked like a strategic plan and gave a perspective for it and therefore has been critical. SP2 and SP5 also argue that a strategic plan is critical, but that Spain is lacking a strategic SDI plan defining objectives and priorities on the national level. Interviewees of both national SDIs also stated the importance of having a "bottom-up" approach for the development of the SDI. In Spain, geographic information duties and competences are distributed among many different stakeholders at distinct administrative levels. Therefore, Spain has used "a bottom-up approach; based on bringing SDI initiatives of distinct administrations together" [SP1]. Bottom-up development also is seen as important for the Dutch SDI, but in the Netherlands, it remains difficult to link the SDI to bottom-up developments in different application domains [NL1 and NL5].

The necessity to have a good business case and clear economic benefits was stated only by interviewees from the Dutch national SDI as being critical [NL4, NL5, NL3]. NL 3 argued that without "a good business case it is difficult for individual organizations to justify their investments in the development of the national SDI." Having a good business case was not mentioned by interviewees from the Spanish SDI.

Except for the statement of having a good business case, critical collaboration factors stated by interviewees of both national SDIs are rather similar. Main differences can be noticed in the way the national SDIs are implemented and collaboration has been organized. The development of the Spanish SDI has been focused on integrating regional/local initiatives with INSPIRE as important guidance. The collaboration process has been mainly based on consensus making starting without fixed regulations, with working groups serving as the germ and diffusion tool for the advance of the SDI in Spain. In the Netherlands, the development and implementation process of the SDI has been mainly based on two visionary documents describing the objectives and implementation strategy of the national SDI. From the beginning, attention has been given to establish the required organizational framework and to develop a coherent national SDI strategy.


A barrier stated by most interviewees is the difficulty in connecting with the user community. As stated by NL1, "the application of data and services provided by the SDI is still limited. Only a relatively small group of experts is using the Dutch SDIs." Also in Spain it remains difficult to connect and interact with users outside the SDI community [SP2, SP5]. According to NL4, for user communities it is still difficult to combine data and services from different sources for one purpose, because of a lack of knowledge. According to NL1, it requires "more interaction with broader user community groups, research communities, and citizens to stimulate and promote the use of high quality geographic data." Interviewees SP4 and NL4 argue also that the SDI community itself involves only a few stakeholders and that not enough resources are available to dedicate sufficient time and effort to work together on the further development of the national SDI. However, most interviewees did not state lack of financial and human resources as important barriers for SDI development.

Another barrier often mentioned is the difficulty faced by organizations in giving up competences and autonomy, e.g., in collecting and distributing specific datasets and developing their own services and tooling. In Spain, the sensitive relations between the national level and the regional level make prioritizing and political coordination of the SDI difficult [SP5]. Lower administrative levels are afraid to lose competences and higher administrative levels do not want to get involved in political problems. They want to maintain good relations with other administrations [SP3 and SP5]. This made it difficult to establish the required SDI coordination mechanism in Spain. Also for stakeholders in the Netherlands it was difficult to give up competences and autonomy on information supply [NL1 and NL3). In the Netherlands, the geoinformation domain was fragmented with different stakeholders being greatly autonomous. "Stakeholders found it difficult to give up competences and autonomy on geoinformation information supply, which have a direct relation with their working processes" [NL3]. "It took a lot of effort to convince stakeholders that work could be done more efficiently with better quality if they would collaborate" [NL1].

Other barriers stated by interviewees were technical and interoperability problems and differences in SDI development between stakeholders. According to SP3, in Spain, many SDI initiatives in the regions and municipalities have been developed, but often they have been created independently from other initiatives. This has lead to differences and interoperability problems between them. According to NL4, within the Dutch SDI, not enough investments were made in creating the required technical facilities and, therefore, the technical infrastructure of the Dutch SDI is lagging behind. However, according to NL3, too often new technology is used that has not yet matured and thus is causing problems. Furthermore, several interviewees have mentioned differences between regions and municipalities in SDI activities as barriers for the development of the SDI on the national level. In Spain, there are differences between SDI developments in the different autonomous regions and it remains difficult to gain interest and participation of smaller municipalities and provincial councils [SP2 and SP5]. In the Netherlands, it remains difficult to get municipalities involved in collaboration processes for the development of the national SDI [NL2 and NL4].

Comparing the two national SDIs, barriers identified are rather similar. They seem mainly to be related to getting stakeholders involved and actively participating in the SDI development. A main challenge identified by the interviewees of both SDIs is to stimulate the application of data and services and the interaction with user communities. Interviewees of both SDIs also mention the complex administrative context as a barrier. In Spain, this is related to the decentralized structure of the government, with three main administrative levels with a high level of responsibilities. In the Netherlands, fragmentation of the geoinformation domain and the high level of autonomy of stakeholders have hampered the development of the national SDI.


Most interviewees stated that their SDI is gradually growing, but that the development of the SDI has its ups and downs. In Spain, most interviewees view the SDI as incrementally developing, but "that the process is often slowing down" [SP4]. Some moments there is a "strong peak, e.g., when new services are introduced, but in other moments not much progress is made" [SP1]. Only interviewee SP5 considers that at the moment the national SDI is in a stable condition for a while and has not developed lately. Most Dutch interviewees agree that the Dutch SDI is developing gradually, but not in a straight line. "Looking at the SDI development in the Netherlands, important progress has been made" [NL2]. "Different governmental institutes collaborate more on geoinformation issues and the SDI is improving" [NL5]. Interviewees also mention a tendency to involve more stakeholders in the collaboration process for SDI development. In Spain, SDIs with different administrative levels were developed and a network of contacts with representatives from different administrations has been built up [SP1 and SP5]. Within the Dutch SDI INSPIRE, the policy document GIDEON and the innovation program "Space for Geo-Information" played important roles in getting stakeholders involved. Space for Geo-Information stimulated "building a network and bringing stakeholders from academia, governmental institutes, and the private sector together" [NL5]. In the context of INSPIRE, "stakeholders get to know each other, which stimulated collaboration on other issues" [NL2].

A trend in both SDIs is the implementation of legal frameworks and the establishment of organizational structure for the SDI on the national level. In Spain, the SDI has been established as an infrastructure in which everybody could participate with not many obligations. However, with the approval of a first legal framework in 2007 and a second in 2010, SDI collaboration became more formalized. This gives the national SDI "a strong legal basis" [SP3 and SP4] and "means a change towards a more formalized approach" [SP1]. In the Netherlands, all interviewees agree that the organizational structure of the SDI has been improved by establishing Geonovum and the GI council. Furthermore, the establishment of legally binding frameworks, like the key registers and INSPIRE, contributed to improve SDI collaboration and at the same time have been the driving force for further SDI development [NL4 and NL5]. Interviewees of both SDIs stated that those developments contributed to more coherent SDI strategies and a clarification of responsibilities and roles. In the Netherlands, the policy document GIDEON is seen as an important step to create a more coherent strategy linking the different SDI-related initiatives and clarifying responsibilities [NL2, NL3, NL5]. Also in Spain, the change to a more formalized approach is seen as an important step to rationalize collaboration within the national SDI by better defining responsibilities of the involved stakeholders [SP1 and SP3]. In general, interviewees identify an obvious trend toward formalization of the collaboration process. This is seen as important for the SDI development because it forced stakeholders to take action. However, the legislative frameworks are seen more often as "a ratification of informal collaboration practices that were taken place already" [SP2].


Our exploration of collaboration factors and dynamics within two SDIs identified a rather similar pattern. Also similar factors that determine the collaboration could be identified. Below we further discuss the main themes addressed in the interviews: motivation, critical factors, and barriers and dynamics of collaboration and compare our results with earlier research on SDI collaboration and highlight new findings.


Main motivations for SDI collaboration identified in our case studies are: to streamline information flows, to make information available for wider use, and to make information supply more efficient. These motivations are in line with the findings of Nedovic-Budic et al. (2004) and McDougall (2006). However, a motivation frequently mentioned in our study is the "implementation of the INSPIRE directive." There is an indication that obligatorily legal frameworks also can be important catalysts of SDI collaboration, which were not previously identified as important motivators for collaboration in previous work.



Organizational structures and legal frameworks have been identified as two of the most critical collaboration factors. The other critical factor is the attitude and level of engagement of the stakeholders. This is in line with the findings of Tulloch and Harvey (2007) who concluded on the basis of a series of case studies "that most successful data-sharing networks relied on a combination of formal and informal relationships." Also, Nedovic-Budic et al. (2004) concluded that formal mechanisms and informal interactions play significant roles in collaborative interorganizational data-sharing activities. A factor that is more eminent in our study compared to earlier work is the establishment of coordination and organizational structures of involved stakeholders: in the Netherlands, Geonovum and the GI council; in Spain, the SDI working groups.


Main collaboration barriers were the difficulties for organizations to give up competences and autonomy and to establish relations with user communities. Also the challenge of SDI to attract users and to share competences to create integrated products and services also has been identified. These aspects are mentioned in previous studies by Dfaz et al. (2011) and Nedovic-Budic et al. (2008). However, little references could be found to empirical studies analyzing collaboration barrier within SDIs. Compared to the earlier work of Harvey (2001) and Nedovic-Budic et al. (2004), technical issues and issues related to data access and standardized data exchange were less stated as critical for collaboration by our interviewees. Our findings, therefore, are in line with observations of Craglia et al. (2008) and Budhathoki et al. (2008), who stated that SDI implementation barriers are increasingly becoming nontechnical in nature.


Our results identified a dynamics of collaboration, in which more stakeholders are involved and a collaboration that is better organized and more formalized. This is confirmed by earlier SDI collaboration research. For example, Azad and Wiggins (1995), Kok van Loenen (2005), and Van Loenen and Van Rijn (2008) analyzed SDIs from an organizational perspective and identified an evolving dynamic in which interorganizational relations between SDI stakeholders pass from lower levels to higher levels of integration, when SDIs mature. The trend toward more formalized and agreed-on procedures also is identified by Craglia and Annoni (2007) and Lance et al. (2009). However, this development may be against the development of SDI collaborations based on self-organizing and more spontaneous interactions, as suggested by some other authors (Kok and Van Loenen 2005, Grus et al. 2010). Our results indicate that when SDIs are maturing, there is an increased need to define an organizational structure and discuss and apply a set of common procedures to manage and develop the SDI.

The dynamics of the SDI collaboration process in our study also have been identified in other studies on collaboration outside the SDI domain (Bailey and Koney 2000, Gadja 2004, Frey et al. 2006). Increasing levels of collaboration require increasing formalization and more specific definitions of roles and responsibilities (Todeva and Knokke 2005, Camarinha-Matos and Afsarmanesh 2007). Also, the level of engagement of stakeholders is identified by several studies as a crucial factor for collaborations (Todeva and Knoke 2005, Frey et al. 2006). When collaborations evolve, stakeholders are increasingly sharing ideas and knowledge to solve problems together (Camarinha-Matos and Afsarmanesh 2006). This tendency could be identified in our SDI case studies. A tendency that is less obvious in our research is the integration of operational activities and the creation of shared products and services. According to Camarinha-Matos and Afsarmanesh (2006), Allee (2008), and Navarette et al. (2010), one of the main purposes of collaboration is to integrate work processes and create outcomes and value. In SDI collaborations, this remains challenging.


Our findings have provided insights into the factors and dynamics of collaboration in the SDI domain. Collaboration has been identified as critical for the development of SDIs. A pattern of an evolving collaboration with more stakeholders becoming involved and a collaboration process that becomes better organized and more formalized could be identified. Furthermore, a number of critical aspects and barriers have been identified that facilitate or inhibit the evolving collaboration process. For example, SDI collaboration requires both having formal legal and organizational structures in place and having good personal (informal) contacts and people engaged with the SDI concept and its benefits.

Our work contributes to earlier work on SDI stakeholder interaction and collaboration by giving more insights into the dynamics of the SDI collaboration process. It identifies a development of SDIs going beyond the data-sharing perspective, driven by technological and standardization issues. SDIs are getting more and more embedded in administrative organizational and legal structures. However, collaborations still are hampered by difficulties for organizations to give up competences and to establish relations with user communities. The main challenge for further development of SDI collaboration is, therefore, to develop structures where distributed competences and knowledge can be shared, enabling the creation of integrated products and services, with value for SDI users. This requires, as well, formalized collaboration structures as good informal contacts and engagement of involved stakeholders. In future research, collaboration processes and their evolution in time should be further examined and evaluated.


We would like to acknowledge and thank the interviewees from Spain and the Netherlands for their participation and the review of the interview reports. This work was supported by the "ESPANA VIRTUAL" project jointly funded by the National Center of Geographical Information (CNIG) and the "Centro para el Desarrollo Tecnologico Industrial" (CDTI) of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology.


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Watse T. Castelein, Arnold K. Bregt, Lukasz Grus

Watse Castelein is a researcher and Ph.D. candidate at the Technical University of Madrid in Spain and the Wageningen University in the Netherlands. His research interests include organizational and socioeconomic aspects of Geo-ICT developments with a specific focus on implementation and evaluation of spatial data infrastructures. As policy advisor, he contributed on the development and monitoring of the national Dutch and Spanish SDI strategy and the implementation of the European INSPIRE directive.

Corresponding Address: MERCATOR Research Group

Technical University of Madrid (UPM)

Campus SUR, Paseo de la Arboleda s/n.

E-28031 Madrid (Spain)


Arnold K. Bregt is a professor of geoinformation science at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Following more than 20 years of experience in the field of geoinformation science research and applications, his current areas of interest are spatial data infrastructures and sensors and human-space interactions. He has written for about 250 publications and holds an MSc and a Ph.D. from the Wageningen University.

Corresponding Address: Centre for Geo-information

Wageningen University

Wageningen, The Netherlands


Lukasz Grus is an assistant professor of geoinformation science at the Wageningen University. His current areas of interests are assessing spatial data infrastructures, evaluating the effects of open spatial data on organizations, and measuring how geographic information systems and spatial data infrastructures support the key processes of organizations. He has written for a number of publications in the GIS field and he holds an MSc and Ph.D. from the Wageningen University. He also works at Esri Netherlands as a business developer in a field of spatial data infrastructures.

Corresponding Address: Centre for Geo-information

Wageningen University

Wageningen, The Netherlands

Table 1. Interview items and questions

Item                                Questions

Own role and motivation to be       In which ways were you personally
engaged in the SDI development      involved in the development of
                                    the SDI?
                                    What was your main motivation
                                    to get involved? Which
                                    organization do you represent?
                                    Why it is important for your
                                    organization to be involved in
                                    the development of the national
                                    What are the benefits for you
The importance, drivers, and        What has been the role of
dynamics of the SDI collaboration   collaboration in the SDI
process in their national SDI       development?
                                    Why stakeholders thought it was
                                    good to start to collaborate?
                                    How contacts between stakeholders
                                    have been established and what
                                    were the main issues in the
                                    Was there a clear strategic plan
                                    for the development of the SDI?
                                    What was the role of more
                                    "spontaneous" bottom/up
                                    initiatives in the development
                                    of the SDI?
                                    How did collaboration evolve?
                                    Did collaboration become more
                                    What were the drivers for these
Perspective on critical SDI         What is according to you critical
collaboration factors               for stakeholder collaboration in
                                    What are the main barriers
                                    for good collaboration?
                                    Did collaboration depend on a few
                                    leaders/personal contacts? What
                                    type of dynamic do you see in the
                                    collaboration process between SDI
                                    How do you see the dynamic between
                                    informal contacts and more
                                    Was there a growing need to
                                    formalize the collaboration?

Table 2. Statements made and the number of times stated by the
interviewees of the Spanish (SP) and Dutch (NL) national SDI,

Motivation for SDI Collaboration:                            SP   NL

1    Avoid duplication of efforts                            3    1
2    Make information available for wider use                5    5
3    Better quality of information                           0    1
3    Streamline information flows                            4    5
4    Efficient information supply                            2    5
5    Implementation of INSPIRE directive                     3    5
6    Sharing of experiences and good practices               3    2
7    Creation of shared SDI facilities                       2    3
Critical SDI Collaboration Factors:
1    Good personal contacts                                  5    3
2    Getting the right people together                       2    3
3    Knowledge exchange and discussions                      3    5
4    Creating awareness                                      4    3
5    Attitude and engagement of stakeholders                 5    6
6    Organizational/coordination structures (governance)     5    6
7    Legal frameworks                                        4    4
8    Shared vision and objectives                            4    6
9    Definition of responsibilities and roles of             2    2
10   A good business case (benefits should be clear)         0    4
11   Bottom-up approach                                      2    2
SDI Collaboration Barriers:
1    Difficult to connect with users outside SDI community   2    4
2    Lack of time and resources                              1    1
3    Technical and interoperability problems                 1    2
4    Work depends on a few stakeholders                      3    1
5    Complex administrative context/fragmentation            1    1
6    Difficult to give up competences and autonomy           2    3
7    Differences in SDI development between stakeholders     2    2
8    Unequal distribution of costs and benefits              0    1
SDI Collaboration Dynamic:
1    Growth in SDI development                               3    5
2    Ups and downs in collaboration                          2    2
3    SDI is in a stable condition                            1    0

4    Better organized and structured collaboration           4    6
5    More formalized collaboration (legal frameworks)        5    3
6    More intense collaboration between stakeholders         0    4
7    Involvement of more stakeholders                        4    4
8    More coherent SDI strategy                              1    4
9    Clarification of responsibilities and roles             3    3
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Author:Castelein, Watse T.; Bregt, Arnold K.; Grus, Lukasz
Publication:URISA Journal
Article Type:Abstract
Date:Jul 1, 2013
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