Geographical information can be used for a number of different applications. As such, it plays an important role in state and economic information systems. In the end, geodata helps public authorities make decisions and manage local, regional and even global problems relating to social, environmental and/or economic issues. Criminality, corporate development, environmentally responsible behaviour, shared use of land and disaster prevention are just a few examples of topics in which decision makers can benefit from geographic information. Decision makers are also increasingly confronted with problems which require cross-border co-operation or have consequences that affect both sides of the border:
- Planning: e.g. the development of a new, international infrastructure and large-scale regional plans
- Monitoring: e.g. the quality of air, soil and water
- Administration: e.g. the management of water intake points or natural areas that extend across borders
Collaboration between the European regions has become a social necessity – not just a political whim. The collaboration between the Netherlands and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia following the floods of 1995 is an excellent example. This led to increased co-operation in the area of water management. Co-operation in other important societal issues has also proven fruitful, whether in the areas of nature, environment & tourism, transportation and transport, crisis management (Enschede) or political topics such as economic or land planning. Interregional co-operation works– and also promotes the credibility and effectiveness of the European Union among European citizens.
This makes it all the more frustrating that cross-border co-operation is often blocked by barriers regarding information. The lengthy and costly process of exchanging information, especially geographic data, makes people doubt the effectiveness of co-operation. Since 2000, people have been working to solve this problem. Thanks to several enthusiastic geographic specialists and civil servants on both sides of the Dutch-German border, the programme to develop and implement a cross-border infrastructure for the provision of geographic information has begun: X-Border GDI NRW-NL. The programme specifically aims to explore possible applications of geographical information to help resolve the societal challenges faced by people on both sides of the border.