I agree with Shawn and Dornet about the importance of a regional perspective and approach towards this effort. The following is list of issues which I think we need to resolve before we can move forward:-
I agree with Dornet's comment "We need for policy makers to understand how important data is in making informed decision and take the “guess” out of decision making". This certainly is a challenge. Dornet and Shawn, what are some of the practical ways we can accomplish this? From my experience, some of the policy makers are not familiar with the technology, the benefits of the technology or how they can make use of it as you indicated. Considering the fact that GIS is something that has only recently made inroads and is being embraced in government.
I think we are moving in the right direction with discussions and forums such as this. Keep up the good work.