GIS opensource

Copyright free mapping is coming..

Like a spurned lover, I was beginning to feel neglected having been ignored last week by the Guardian’s “Free our Data Campaign”, but this week we are back to normal with a piece describing the efforts of the OpenStreetMap team to Map the Isle of Wight last weekend.

In the past I have made it clear that I am fully behind the efforts of Steve Coast and the OpenStreetMap movement to create copyright free mapping, the technology is here today and with some bright people and organisation it is completely practical to produce a national street database for Great Britain.

As Jeff points out in his blog, National Mapping Agencies such as the OS need to wake up to these community driven developments, however I really think we must see them not as a threat, but as an opportunity.

Will Steve Coast be the Linus Torvalds of open source geodata ? time will tell, but I believe OpenStreetMap is every-bit as important a development in Geospatial data as the development of the Linux Kernel was for operating systems, and I suggest ultimately a similar commercial model may develop around open source geospatial data.

There is without question a place for open source “small” scale data, without the high spatial resolution, rich data models and high levels of currency which characterise products like OS MasterMap.

Open Source geospatial data products will meet the needs of many users who just need to be able to produce simple location maps and which need to be updated less frequently. But even these maps will need to be updated..

Keeping such datasets up to date, is a lot more difficult but potentially possible.. however it may need a more robust long term funding stream to support the process, keeping servers running and bandwidth costs real money.

This does boil down ultimately to the old “Free as in Speech” or ‘Free as in Beer” debate, copyright free or open source mapping may well ultimately migrate to the former position – copyright free but commerical supported in some way, this I think is still very positive for the Gi Industry, with many opportunities for commercial support and value add services.

Such a “free as in Speech” dataset supported by a robust commercial model may well meet the needs of the user community, but I not sure it will go far enough for the “free our data’ campaign which is more politically motivated.

In conclusion we must recognise that open source geodata is here to stay and is real, Mapping Agencies such as the OS must learn to adopt it’s values and meet the needs of a user community not fully served today.

Actually I really do see a role for the OS in contributing to open source databases in the future, copyright free street maps are a great starting point, but it would be great to have urban area boundaries and a coastline, for example, contributed by the OS?

btw – I appreciate the efforts of guys last weekend to make sure they were not using “in-copyright” maps of the Isle of Wight, but I think the Map of Namibia used by the guys in the articles photograph is taking things a bit too far !!

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

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