Once again the issue of “free” and Open Source mapping has been raised by the Guardian , as always a number of good points are made along with a few Gilligan-isms..
The main thrust of the piece is about the potential of open source, community produced mapping data with interviews with representatives of the Mappinghacks and Open Street Maps projects, all great stuff about producing mapping data appropriate for the use of the citizen using GPS and web based editing tools. It is very exciting and does offer the potential to develop the UK GI industry in many different ways similar to the impact of the open source movement on commercial software development.
However.. you knew there would be one..
The article compares OS datasets which are more detailed and maintained daily by a team of 300+ surveyors, surveyed to 10cm accuracy with very expensive GPS receivers, to the data collected by volunteers using handheld GPS costing a few hundred pounds from Dixons.
I am not critical of the open source mapping movement here, but the needs of Utility companies, Local and Central Government often can only be met by high accuracy, up to date data, which is very costly to collect and for which they are willing to pay.
We need to try and take the political steam out of this debate, as I have noted before the decision as to who pays for the collection and maintenance of high quality data is purely political, but I don’t see any potential UK administration choosing the funding of the OS (£100m ?) above other more pressing social spending such as Schools and the NHS.
There are many needs however which don’t require such high accuracy, high cost data for which the OS does not have a viable product offering. This is where open source mapping and the potential improvements to it developed by other third parties offers the greatest potential. Here the UK could follow the example of the US where a range of GI companies could flourish adding value to this data.
The Gilligan moments then…
INSPIRE will result in the mapping of “every lamp-post, phone-mast, river, mountain” etc in Europe !
VMap1 (that’s 1:250K Remember) classified by US intelligence as the most detailed map ever drawn !