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NSDI creates an ecosystem where government and private sector organizations can collaborate to manage, improve and exchange spatial data and information.These Spatial information sets are vital to making sound decisions at the local, regional, state and central level planning, implementation of action plans, infrastructure development, disaster management support, and business development. Natural Resources management, flood mitigation, environmental restoration, land use assessments and disaster recovery are just a few examples of areas in which decision makers are benefiting from spatial information.

Until recently, maps (usually in paper form) have been a mainstay for a wide variety of applications and decision-making. This is changing as more spatially referenced data and information on a wider variety of topics or themes (e.g., population, land use, economic transactions, hydrology, agriculture, climate, soils) are being produced, stored, transferred, manipulated, and analyzed in digital form.