Commercial businesses interested in GIS comprise a wide array of organizations offering GIS-related services including consulting, database development, training, and application development; organizations offering GIS products for sale such as software, hardware and data; and direct or indirect end-user organizations such as engineering and construction firms. These organizations may not join the formal Data Sharing Cooperative, but they can benefit from several other aspects of the Coordination Program. For example, the public Clearinghouse organizes and describes GIS data sets for the benefit of all potential users. In addition, the overall Coordination Program fosters education; promotion, communication, and enforcement of standards related to the development and use of GIS software and data; and improvement of communications and coordination regarding GIS activities in the State. Having so many different interests in the coordination of GIS activity in NYS, the private sector is represented in a specialized Private Sector Advisory Committee and private companies are involved in the finance, data sharing, and legal working groups.
Participation from the private sector is still quite limited and it will likely take some time before private organizations have a major role to play. As the private sector is composed of very diverse entities, it is difficult to find the right mix and level of participation and focus. The Private Sector Advisory Committee has not been very active in recent years currently has no official chair.
In general, volunteerism and enthusiasm, which were very strong in the first year, declined as the program became more formally established. By 1999, participants relied more and more on the OFT Project Director and the State Library staff who had proved knowledgeable and reliable. As these staff members became more comfortable with doing things directly, they began to accept more of the responsibilities that had formerly been on the agendas of the working groups. While the data coordination working group continued to be very active, some other working groups were not able to sustain their initial enthusiasm and some became dormant after their initial charges were satisfied. As a result, the very small staff became overloaded with some tasks, and a major effort was made to secure stable state funding to support ongoing operations and growth of the program.