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Malta Spatial Data Infrastructure

Provided by MITA

The Malta Spatial Data Infrastructure (MSDI) is a portal that offers web services to the general public, public service and public sector organisations. MSDI is aimed at sharing environmental related geospatial datasets. This service facilitates public service organisations that do not have the necessary infrastructure to host spatial datasets files on the web server and make them available to the general public.

Organisations that have a spatial infrastructure can share spatial data through this portal using a web map services. On the receiving end the general public may: view the spatial datasets using online displaying tools, use the Discovery Service to perform online search for datasets based on metadata, and request download of datasets that are available on the website through the Download Service.

The portal seamlessly uses the eForms eGovernment platform’s workflow to process request for datasets. Depending on the usage classification of the dataset established by the data owners, the data can be used for academic, commercial and general use purposes.

This website also forms part of the infrastructure for the INSPIRE legal obligations. The website is mainly installed using open source products and is hosted in the Tier III accredited MITA Data Centre.

INSPIRE Directive

INSPIRE, formally known as European Directive 2007/2/EC, establishes an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Union. The Directive has been transposed into Maltese legislation under the provisions of the Development Planning Act and brought into force by Legal Notice on the 22nd December 2009.

The Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA) has been designated as the competent Authority in terms of the implementation of the Directive and the National Spatial Data Infrastructure in Malta.

The intention of INSPIRE is to create a European Union (EU) spatial data infrastructure (SDI) that facilitates the sharing of environmental spatial information across public sector organisations (at a national and international level) and improves public access to spatial information across Europe.

INSPIRE is based on a number of common principles:

  • Data should be collected only once and kept where it can be maintained most effectively.
  • It should be possible to combine seamless spatial information from different sources across Europe and share it with many users and applications.
  • It should be possible for information collected at one level/scale to be shared with all levels/scales; detailed for thorough investigations, general for strategic purposes.
  • Geographic information needed for good governance at all levels should be readily and transparently available.
  • Easy to find what geographic information is available, how it can be used to meet a particular need, and under which conditions it can be acquired and used.

To ensure that Member State SDIs are compatible and usable across European boundaries, the Directive requires that, for the 34 environmental themes in scope within INSPIRE, spatial datasets are available in a consistent format. Technical Implementing Rules have been made available by the European Commission to support the implementation of INSPIRE, covering the following areas:

  • Metadata
  • Data Specifications
  • Network Services
  • Data and Service Sharing
  • Monitoring and Reporting

The Implementing Rules are adopted as Commission Decisions or Regulations, and are binding in their entirety.

INSPIRE technical architecture

The following figure provides a simplified overview of key elements in the technical architecture of INSPIRE.

Diagram of Inspire-Directive Solution

Spatial Data

In principle, every spatial object in a spatial data setneeds to be described by a data specification specifying the semantics and the characteristics of the types of spatial objects in the data set. The spatial object types provide a classification of the spatial objects and determine among other information the properties that any spatial object may have (be they thematic, spatial, temporal, a coverage function, etc.) as well as known constraints (e.g. the coordinate reference systems that may be used in spatial data sets). This information is, in principle, captured in an application schema using a conceptual schema language, which is a part of the data specification.

It is important to note that the logical schema of the spatial data set may and will often differ from the specification of the spatial object types in the data specification. In this case, and in the context of realtime transformation, a service will transform queries and data between the logical schema of the spatial data set and the published INSPIRE application schema on-the-fly. This transformation can be performed e.g. by the download service offering access to the data set or a separate transformation service.

Metadata

Service metadata provides basic information about a service instance to enable the discovery of spatial data services. The description of a service includes the service type, a description of the operations and their parameters as well as information about the geographic information available from a service offering.

Network Services

Network services are necessary for sharing spatial data between the various levels of public authority in the Community. For these services interoperability is requested by the Directive, which means the possibility for services to interact, without repetitive manual intervention.

It is important to note that for INSPIRE it is assumed that all kind of data and metadata access and processing is performed using web services . All services are described by service descriptions (service metadata, as part of the INSPIRE metadata), allowing humans and software applications to discover specific service instances in the infrastructure and invoke them automatically.

Another view on the INSPIRE Network Services is to see them as a mediator between the services provided by the member states or offered by third parties and their EU-level usage for example via the INSPIRE geo-portal .

The European Commission INSPIRE website has the latest information on INSPIRE and an archive of related documents.