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Nearly all government information has a geographic dimension--a street address, a transportation corridor, a river, a city line. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) offer unique opportunities to analyze and compare these disparate types of information, opening up new opportunities to deliver both information and services. The value of GIS and spatial data can be seen most dramatically in applications that promote economic development, public health and safety, and environmental quality. Moreover, these applications share many common information needs.

Experts estimate that up to 80 percent of the cost of GIS is tied to the collection and creation of spatial data. Often, however, data created by one organization can be used by other organizations with similar needs, so sharing can yield considerable efficiencies.

The New York State GIS Cooperative Project, initiated by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), was designed to address some of these issues. The project demonstrated the depth and variety of existing human, technical, and data resources in New York State. It showed the extent to which spatial data needs overlap among key policy and applications areas. It also examined how data sharing strategies can reduce the cost and increase the value of geographic information systems at every level of government and in the private sector. The project identified and examined existing barriers to data sharing and coordination and developed specific recommendations for overcoming those barriers. Finally, the project created a new spatial data resource for New York State, the prototype NYS Spatial Data Clearinghouse.