Despite thousands of data sources for geographic information systems, there's no universal standard or widespread, non-proprietary way to federate that data. It doesn't have to be this way.
Used to be that only local governments and shipping companies cared about geographic information systems. But now, the market is telling us that GIS is a "can't live without" feature of not only place-based applications like Google Maps, but a mainstay of federal economic stimulus programs.
There's only one problem: GIS is fundamentally broken.
Here's an example: 30% of the trails in the woods behind my house were recently destroyed by a school construction project. If GIS had kept pace with other information technologies and practices, trail data would have been available to local government agency planners, and allowances could have been made prior to construction. In this case, 40 feet would have made a pretty significant difference. Make no mistake: Effective, usable GIS has the ability to affect you, literally right in your backyard.
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