Breaking Down Open Data Barriers
A recent essay and presentation by my colleague Jan Willem van Eck about breaking down open data barriers provides instructive insight on the developments in the field of open data pertaining to geospatial information, and why it all matters. Van Eck states that “open data is a multi-perspective topic (e.g. transparency, economic, political)” but also that “these perspectives do not necessarily overlap.” Hmm… very true. How can we bring these perspectives together? Through continued efforts in conferences, essays, videos, webinars, and other means of communication in which many in the geospatial community are involved.
From his examples, it is clear that compelling cases of successful projects that thrived because data were in fact open are still needed, despite recent progress made. It is also clear from his statements that often the most successful examples are ones that combine government agencies, research institutions, and companies; in other words, not just from government agencies alone. One example he mentions is the new national elevation data for The Netherlands. Software developments such as the open data app from Esri are other significant steps forward.
Van Eck identifies three major challenges: Drawing a line between government and industry’s activities, ensuring the continuity of the data stream, and protecting privacy. But I think the most instructive part of his essay and his presentation is his admonition of aligning open data supply and demand. How can organizations know what the demand is unless those of us who are actually using GIS make it known what is needed? The continued journey toward breaking down open data barriers is something most of us in the geospatial community can and should promote. The fact that van Eck was permitted to present this topic at a recent EuroSDR meeting was significant. As he states, discovering the real value of open data for society as a whole should be our goal, not the benefits for just a few organizations. As he makes clear, “open (geo)data is too important to just leave up to government.”