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Metadata and data distribution

Most geographic information applications are fed with geographical data produced in a different context than the application itself. These geographical data long were paper maps and are now often digital data. It can be, for instance, a topographical database built by National Mapping Agencies (NMA), earth imagery files, or databases produced by specific agencies working on located information. In other words, producing geographical data and using them often take place in separated contexts. Consequently, a data producer has to distribute its data for potential users to access them.
This access implies difficult tasks like discovering what data exist, understanding the information content of these available data, assessing the fitness for use of these data in the application context, selecting data sets for the application, and acquiring and using the data. These tasks are all the more difficult because storing geographical information in digital databases relies on different complex representation paradigms and on arbitrary choices. A user should be familiar with the various representations chosen by data producers, as well as by software used in his application, in order to chose the most relevant geographical data for his application. Standardization in the field of geographical information has greatly lightened user access. The remaining difficulties must be handled through specific access facilities as explained in this chapter.

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