GRASSLinks offers public access to environmental data. A user need only
have a Web browser and access to the internet to use the large spatial
database and powerful GIS software available at REGIS. The aim of
GRASSLinks is to provide a prototype for cooperation and data sharing
between environmental planning agencies, public action groups,
citizens, and private entities.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are a combination of spatial data, hardware, and software that allow for complex analysis and querying of mapped information. GIS have been used by environmental management and planning agencies, as well as educational, research, and commercial entities for well over a decade. It's accessibility, however, has been restricted by its heavy resource requirements. Many smaller agencies, non-governmental organizations, and most of the public could not afford the expensive workstations originally needed to run the software and to store the data. They did not have the training to use the software, nor did they have adequate resources to compile the spatial information necessary for a useful geodatabase.
Technology is evolving rapidly. Workstations have gotten faster and cheaper. Increasingly data is already available in digital format over the internet. In fact even smaller agencies and public citizens are getting connected to the internet.
GRASSLinks seeks to serve two communities of geodata users: those who do not have GIS capabilities and those who do. The first group is comprised of users with access to the internet, but who do not have their own GIS capabilities. Mosaic is available on most platforms and is currently in the public domain. These users can access the data stored here at REGIS (and any future GRASSLinks servers) despite limited resources or expertise. A Mosaic-based "point and click" interface ensures that users need not know any of the specific commands normally required to access a GIS.
The second group served by GRASSLinks includes land use planning and management agencies. Land use planning decisions frequently require the cooperation of multiple agencies. Or, different agencies may need to use the same information for their own purposes. GRASSLinks can be an important part of creating a distributed database network. Historically, each agency would have its own database, and then continually maintain their own data as well as data obtained from other sources. A new model of data sharing would be for each agency to maintain data for which they are responsible, and then access other data over the network as needed. This model can be applied to non-governmental organizations, research groups schools, or commerical entities.