Metadata challenges faced by producers and users of spatial data in South Africa.
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A large number of spatial datasets have inconsistent and/or outdated metadata. In certain cases, metadata is entirely absent. Some spatial data producers suggest that metadata creation and maintenance is a time consuming and labour-intensive process. Conversely, users experience difficulties in understanding and accessing spatial datasets, if associated metadata is insufficient or non-existent. Eventually, deficient metadata use may lead to loss of spatial data meaning and cause its very existence to be forgotten. The purpose of the study was to assess the main challenges hindering metadata creation and maintenance on the part of producers and its usage on the part of users in South Africa. The main findings showed that: data was accessed at expected levels via the internet; most data users accepted alternative spatial data media including compact disks and hardcopy; the spatial data industry is generally under financial budget constraints; particularly in the public sector, lack of skilled personnel in spatial metadata management resulted in staff turnover problems; the framework datasets indicated outdated metadata; and different producers used inconsistent metadata standards and a number of organizations were at rudimentary stage of spatial metadata development. In conclusion, spatial data producers should be encouraged to maintain data with complete documentation in a standardized spatial metadata to assure information consistency for users. Raising awareness about spatial metadata benefits may encourage data managers and top leaders to build on metadata priorities. Moreover, strong compliance with the SDI policy necessitates solid cooperation amongst the spatial data community.