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This quote about how 80% of all data has a spatial component has been bandied around everywhere. Introduction to GIS classes, product descriptions, talks, etc. Would anybody know who first said it? Or A link to original article would be nice.

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That reminds me of this famous quote: “The trouble with quotes on the internet is that it’s difficult to discern whether or not they are genuine.” ― Abraham Lincoln – Ragi Yaser Burhum Jan 15 '12 at 4:03
More to the point would be to consider whether the quotation in this question has any meaning at all. Obviously it is not universal in scope: nobody could possibly assess "all data" ever created in the world. This needs a clear definition of "data" and of "spatial" and it begs us to provide some useful criterion of just what universe of data we are talking about. Quotations like this are more likely to reveal more about the cupidity of the speaker and gullibility of the listener than they do about GIS. – whuber Jan 16 '12 at 17:30
It's just that it has been so ubiquitous. It may well be one of those made-up statistics used to sell something. Will leave this question open for a couple of days in case somebody has another answer. – R.K. Jan 17 '12 at 2:36
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I just searched for "80% of data has a spatial component, says who?" and it returned this un-authoritative quote:

UPDATE: a couple of my ex-MapInfo colleagues contacted me to inform that the stat was used at MapInfo before sneeze was at the company. Further, one of them attributes the origins to MapInfo founders Laszlo Bardos and Sean O’Sullivan with Pixie later referencing it in MapMarker's marketing materials.

But a more reliable reference points to here:

The reference is: Franklin, Carl and Paula Hane, “An introduction to GIS: linking maps to databases,” Database. 15 (2) April, 1992, 17-22.

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Whoa, thanks man. Saw this on the comments though > UPDATE: I just received a copy of the original from Steve Romalewski, and turns out the quote references a 1990 report from the Ohio Geographically Referenced Information Program (OGRIP) []. I’m busy tracking that down, and will report my findings. – R.K. Jan 15 '12 at 13:26
Great! Thinking about it a a little more it seems like 100% of data has a spatial component; it's just that <100% is meaningful to explore. – djq Jan 15 '12 at 18:22

A recent article from GISLounge sheds some light on the topic. It would seem that a certain Robert E. Williams wrote a paper in 1987 entitled "Selling a geographical information system to government policy makers." He was the Director of the Alachua County Regional Information Center at that time. The article was published in "Papers from the 1987 Annual Conference of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association" by URISA. Here's the offending paragraph:

Automated mapping is probably an easier sell because, again, the policymakers are cognizant of the need for improved mapping capabilities. It has been estimated that approximately 80% of the informational needs of a local government policymaker is related to a geographical location. This information is usually supplied by a map rendering, e.g., maps showing the location of a parcel of land being considered for a rezoning petition.

He doesn't lists any sources or supporting references to his claim though.

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Working in a local government... the 80% rule is generally true.

Of course, if your business is manufacturing or retail, this percentage is non-applicable.

In a local government, we do use the term NeoGeoData for data gathered and recorded with an adress or location component, not being a GIS dataset on purpose. This data becomes GeoData when you put this information in relation to other (Neo-)GeoData sets. (for instance "adresses of kids < 3 Years" versus "location of playgrounds") ("income" versus "age" versus "location of social housing")

So yes, I think the statement "It has been estimated that approximately 80% of the informational needs of a local government policymaker is related to a geographical location" is quiet correct.

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