Article dated: 20 March 2009

The European directive (Directive 2007/2/EC) aims to provide easily accessible and harmonised spatial information across European member states, by creating an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE).

INSPIRE's focus is on digital spatial data that are needed to support environmental decision-making and policies in the European Community and the monitoring and evaluation of policies and activities that impact on the environment. Data services established in each member state will enable the easy online discovery, viewing and accessing of spatial data held by, or on behalf of, public authorities.

A European geo-portal will be created by the community to act as a gateway to data and services across Europe. Various implementing rules, such as those on the metadata requirements, rights management, data specifications and data sharing, are being created, with member states expected to implement them between 2010 and 2019.

In the UK, Defra co-ordinates the development and implementation of INSPIRE through the UK Location Strategy and the UK Location Council. The UKDA and the ESRC Census Programme are working with the ESRC to develop steps needed for the ESRC data services to become INSPIRE compliant. Whilst the focus of INSPIRE is on the environment, datasets held by the UKDA and the Census Programme deal with the social science side of environmental issues like demography and human health, and therefore also fall within the data themes of INSPIRE.