Public Access to Maps and Data debate at SoC conference
The new European Commission Directive on a common spatial data infrastructure (INSPIRE) has been designed in consultation with European National Mapping Agency representatives, and seeks to impose a common data licensing and cost policy on European geographic data.
Open EuroData - The current plans, in the course of becoming EU law, are to impose a common cost-recovery, user-payment and proprietary licensing policy for government-generated geographic data.
Open GeoData Standards - are an important part of national mapping agency standards. Central and local government will be able to use a new infrastructure to improve their quality of and potential for spatial analysis.
Global GeoData Policy - Worldwide policy on open geodata is trending strongly in the direction of open and free availability of state-collected geographic data. The US has had an open geographic data policy for years which has led to developments both in free and community-built GIS, political communication services which depend on address geocoding, and in the development of corporate local search services.
So what does all this mean for practising cartographers?
In the UK, national geodata is collected and maintained by the Ordnance Survey (OS). Since 1998 the OS has been a Trading Fund, a government-owned company obliged to cover its own costs, and invest profits in its own infrastructure. The OS operates as a clearing-house for geodata collected by local government - new and renamed addresses, land use information, etc. The geodata held by the OS is licensed under Crown Copyright; it is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act as a commercial interest. The OS co-owns the street address to lat/long geocoding data with the Post Office; both charge several thousand pounds for an annual license.
Will things change as far as data licencing and availability is concerned? Will local authorities be making their vast amounts of data more freely available? Will cartographers, and in particular the so-called “community cartographers” have freer access to basic geodata in the future? Will initiatives such as Creative Commons licensing have any significant effect? I don’t have any immediate answers to these questions, but I am certainly interested in them and feel that the cartographic industry needs to be taking a close interest in these developments. If you want to find out more about these developments that may well affect you significantly as cartographers you should consider attending the Society of Cartographers Summer School this September, at Cambridge University. There is a whole morning session on the topic, with 6 presentations from contributors that include Roger Longhorn (policy analyst), Peter Cridland (local authority GIS expert), Ed Parsons (Chief Technology Officer at OS), and 3 “carto-activists” – if I may use such a phrase. After the presentations there is also a Panel Discussion involving all 6 presenters, where you will have a chance to ask questions, make your points, or just enjoy what looks like being a lively debate. The Summer School also has the usual mix of formal presentations (including a keynote address by Chris Board, OBE), plus demos, workshops, visits and social events. See the weblinks below (which provided someof the facts in this note) for more information about this topic and the SoC summer school.
Roger Longhorn’s article on Geospatial Data Access - http://www.geoconnexion.com/magazine/article.asp?ID=2252
Open Knowledge Foundation - http://okfn.org/wiki/OpenGeoData SoC Summer School - http://www.mdx.ac.uk/www/gem/soc2005/