All levels of government remain strong consumers of geographic information systems (GIS) and geospatial hardware, software, services and data, according to a recent study by Daratech, Inc., a Cambridge, Mass.-based market research firm.

For 2009, the public sector will account for 40 percent of the $5.3 billion worldwide market for GIS and geospatial products. Key product categories include data, geo-enabled engineering, global positioning systems, photogrammetric and remote sensing.

Total public sector spending worldwide in 2009 should exceed $2.1 billion, with national/federal governments accounting for just less than half of the spending. State/regional governments will spend $654 million, while local governments will spend about $465 million on GIS/geospatial products.

The leading suppliers to the public sector include ESRI, Bentley, Intergraph, Autodesk and PB MapInfo. ESRI's sales to the public sector will top $540 million, according to Daratech estimates.

For 2009, the GIS and geospatial industry will grow at a much slower pace than in 2008. Worldwide growth in 2009 is forecast to slow to 1%, down from 11% in 2008, say Daratech researchers. Industry CEOs interviewed by the research firm, however, were unanimous in their belief that growth consistent with the robust 11% compound annual growth rate of the past six years would return in 2010.

The private sector is cutting back on its purchases of GIS/geospatial gear in 2009. Daratech is forecasting private sector spending to shrink substantially from 2008 levels. Public sector purchases, however, are expected to grow 4.1% in 2009 over 2008 levels, reflecting the sector's continuing deployment of GIS technologies at all levels of government.

The North American GIS market has not been as adversely affected by the downturn as the rest of the world because of the ongoing needs of homeland security and continuing investment in GIS by the public sector. Daratech forecasts GIS/geospatial sales growth in North America to exceed 2.1% in 2009, which is more than twice the growth in Asia Pacific and five times the growth in Europe.

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