Thesis subject

MSc thesis topic: From spatial data infrastructures to spatial knowledge systems? Evaluating the deflated expectations of the Omgevingswet

Spatial data generally requires an analyst to create information and knowledge from the data. In this sense, spatial data infrastructures (SDIs) are dumb infrastructures. The Dutch Environment and Planning Act (Omgevingswet) promised an infrastructure which provided answers: Can I build a brewery on this location? But in reality, this promise seemed hard to realise.

Spatial planning is a complex subject in the Netherlands due to the huge amount of spatial laws. The Dutch Environment and Planning Act (Omgevingswet) promised to simplify this by integrating all these laws into one spatial planning law. To facilitate this further, a digital system (DSO) was created to facilitate the exchange of spatial plans, but also to provide answers on questions like: Do I need a permit to extend my house? Can I start a factory here?

One could argue that this digital system would not become a spatial data infrastructure but a spatial knowledge infrastructure: A system to which everyone could ask a spatial question and gain an answer. However, along the road, the ambitions of the Omgevingswet were downscaled as it seemed overambitious. The implementations of the Omgevingswet is postponed several times. What can we learn from this case? Is it even possible to create a spatial knowledge system for complex spatial questions?

Objectives and Research questions

  • Study the development of the digital system Omgevingswet in all its facets (e.g. organisational, technical, legal, political)
  • What can we learn from the development of this case? And what does it tell us about the possibility to develop spatial knowledge infrastructures?


  • For a good investigation of the Omgevingswet, it requires the researcher to speak Dutch. However, if you know of another interesting SDI case study, you can discuss this possibility.

Literature and information

  • Sjoukema 2021 – Governance Dynamics of Spatial Data Infrastructures.

Expected reading list before starting the thesis research

  • Willem K. Korthals Altes (2016) Planning reform beyond planning: the debate on an integrated Environment and Planning Act in the Netherlands, Planning Practice & Research, 31:4, 420-434,
  • Ivánová, I, Siao Him Fa, J, McMeekin, DA, Arnold, LM, Deakin, R, Wilson, M. From spatial data to spatial knowledge infrastructure: A proposed architecture. Transactions in GIS. 2020; 24: 1526– 1558,

Theme: Empowering & engaging communities