Why Share Your Organizationís Data with a Consolidator?

By Adena Schutzberg

There's a lot of energy being expended these days to capitalize on geodata that can be freely given away by individuals or organizations. A variety of public, private and "open" efforts are actively seeking out, aggregating and making available these different layers for different purposes. My question, as I explored the websites of these efforts, was this: How do those behind these aggregation efforts convince potential data sharers to send in their data? How do they answer the question, "Why should I give you my data?"

I hoped, naively, that each site would have a Frequently Asked Questions list that included a version of that question, along with an answer. I didn't find that question listed in any FAQ on any of the sites I visited. What follows is a description of what I did find.

Commercial Company Efforts
The two commercial company geodata aggregation efforts I looked at, Esri's Community Maps and Google's Map Partners Program, followed a traditional marketing plan to encourage data sharing. Both listed in detail the benefits to the contributor.

Esri listed these two bullet points related to cost, security, availability and performance among its long list of benefits. [full text]

  • Eliminates the costs associated with making the data widely available, such as setting up and maintaining the infrastructure.
  • Map data is hosted and maintained by Esri at one or more data centers in the U.S. to ensure high availability and performance.

Google listed different benefits for each data type it hosts (vector, imagery, transit, 3D cities, Street View), including these two in the imagery list related to economic development and cost savings for imagery. [full text]

  • Boost tourism and foster economic development:
    • Enable visitors and tourism agencies to plan and present travel itineraries
    • Support business site location planning
  • It's free - all you need to do is share your data

These findings are perhaps expected. These are businesses that have marketing staffers skilled at selling products and services to users and partners. The benefits sections of their websites detailing the return on data sharing look much like the sections detailing other products and services.

Open Efforts
The "open" geodata aggregation efforts I explored included OpenStreetMap, OpenAddresses and OpenAerialsMap. They all share a common heritage in OSM, though the aggregated data are quite different, one to another. These sites spend quite a bit of time discussing what the effort is and why it is important, but virtually no time detailing the direct benefit to contributors.

The closest I could find to what I sought was the response to this question: "Why are you making OpenStreetMap?" The part of the answer that addresses the data provider is at the end of a long discussion of how map data are not free to use, and the statement is, itself, written in the negative. [full text]

Advances in technology like cheap GPS units mean you can now create your own maps, in collaboration with others and have none of the restrictions outlined above. The ability to do so allows you to regain a little bit of the community you live in - if you can't map it, you can't describe it.

OpenAddresses explores the "why" of the effort but not the more specific "why would one contribute." The closest statement I found on the site addressed the question: "Why are free and open data important?" [full text]

The goal of OpenAddresses.org is let everyone use geolocated addresses free of charge, with an open license and covering the whole planet.

Open Aerial map offers the same sort of statement within its mission statement. [full text]

In order to provide an unrestricted, free, an unbiased view of the world, OpenAerialMap encourages the free exchange of imagery, without restriction on its use.

U.S. Federal/State Efforts
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service actively seeks geodata input for its wetlands dataset. It refers to such contributions as an opportunity and notes that submitted data will appear on the Wetlands Mapper, The National Map and be registered on Geospatial One-Stop. These are not noted as benefits, but could be interpreted as such. Other benefits [full text].

The Service will provide proper acknowledgement of all data contributors and maintain data integrity consistent with DOI policy.

In Idaho, INSIDE Idaho serves as the official geospatial data clearinghouse for the state of Idaho. It's currently involved in a pre-release of a new website, but this analysis was done on the old site.

INSIDE Idaho hosts virtual and contributed state data and notes those data will be "highly visible to GIS users..." and available via Geospatial One-Stop. Specific returns include efficient access, something noted previously and one new benefit, help with metadata creation. [full text]

...you can provide the public efficient access to your data through a geospatial data library via the Internet.
...
INSIDE Idaho staff will aid data contributors in the creation of FGDC-compliant metadata if necessary.

Conclusion

This is hardly a complete or detailed study of all geodata aggregation efforts. However, from this small exploration I conclude:

  • Private companies treat the voluntary collection of geodata much like they treat sales. They encourage participation by citing benefits to the contributor.
  • Informal organizations aggregating data to be shared under open licenses for a wide range of uses do not list benefits explicitly, but rather detail the need for open data in general, and the need for the data type being collected, in particular.
  • Government efforts to collect data provide the least details about specific benefits of contributing.

With those conclusions in mind, I would recommend that organizations looking to collect geodata do address the "Why should I give you my data?" question in their online and other materials. It may not only help encourage contributions but also help potential contributors to distinguish between the growing list of projects seeking those data.

Ed. note: Directions Media hosted a webinar sponsored by Esri in August titled, "Learn about Esri's Free Community Maps. During the presentation a representative from the City of Charlotte addressed the benefits of contributing the city's data to the Community Maps program.

Aggregator Statements
    
Below are longer excerpts of text from the websites of the aggregators explored in this article.

Esri Community Maps Program
    
Benefits:

Users inside and outside of your organization, including the local business community and the general public will be able to use the online maps with ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Explorer, ArcGIS Server Web mapping applications, or a standard Internet Web browser.
Eliminates the costs associated with making the data widely available, such as setting up and maintaining the infrastructure.
Map data is hosted and maintained by Esri at one or more data centers in the U.S. to ensure high availability and performance.
Access to your map data through an online map.
Esri can provide the data in ArcGIS Server map cache format that your organization can publish for internal use with ArcGIS Server.

- Esri Community Maps Page

OpenStreetMap

Why are you making OpenStreetMap?

Geographical data (geo data) is not free in many parts of the world, like the United Kingdom. Generally these places have given the task of mapping to various government agencies who in return get to make money by selling the data back to you and me. If you live in one of these countries, then your taxes pay for the mapping and then you have to pay again to get a copy of it. In the USA crude data (such as TIGER) from the government, is in the public domain, however refined data and finished maps are generally commercially copyrighted.

Data from commercial mapping agencies contains lies, or Copyright Easter Eggs, to catch out anyone copying it. These easter eggs take the form of fake or missing streets, or features like churches and schools that don't in fact exist. If you make a map using their data, they can say "ah-ha! Gotcha!" from looking if you also copied these fake pieces of map. The map may also just be incorrect because for example you bought it a year ago and a path has been dug up in your local park since, or someone just made a mistake.

If you accept all of this then you still can't do anything with the data but photocopy it. In lots of places that's illegal too if you go beyond your fair use rights. You can't correct a street name, or add the pub/bar over the road, or use the data in a computer program without paying a lot of money. More money than you probably have. What about sending it to a friend, enclosing it in an invitation or posting it on a notice board? A lot of these are less legal than you might think.

Advances in technology like cheap GPS units mean you can now create your own maps, in collaboration with others and have none of the restrictions outlined above. The ability to do so allows you to regain a little bit of the community you live in - if you can't map it, you can't describe it.

Wiki FAQ

We would encourage users who are considering contributing to Google Map Maker to contribute their data and knowledge to OpenStreetMap instead. OpenStreetMap is more detailed, growing more quickly and, most importantly, liberally licensed specifically to allow new and creative uses. By making contributions to OpenStreetMap everyone benefits whereas contributions to Google Map Maker has only limited benefits at best.
- OpenStreetMap Wiki

OpenAddresses
Why are geolocated addresses so important ?

Geolocated addresses are, for example, used in a GPS to find a place to meet, used by businesses to locate their customers and improve geomarketing, used by statisticians to analyze populations or used in city plans, presentations etc...

Geolocated addresses are required to deliver geocoding services ("Where is main street ?") or reverse geocoding services ("What is the nearest address to this location ?"). OpenAddresses.org freely provides this kind of services.

Why are free and open data important?

The currently available data sets are not free of rights, expensive or don't cover the whole planet. The goal of OpenAddresses.org is let everyone use geolocated addresses free of charge, with an open license and covering the whole planet. To achieve this goal, the OpenAddresses.org community creates and updates this dataset.

- Open Addresses Press Release

OpenAerialMap

The OAM Mission
Open Aerial Map is a non-profit, open access, meeting place for the aerial imaging community. It exists to provide a freely available image map of the world created solely by community contribution, and to facilitate the free exchange of imagery, technology, and ideas. In order to provide an unrestricted, free, an unbiased view of the world, OpenAerialMap encourages the free exchange of imagery, without restriction on its use.

- Open Aerial Map Website

Google

There are many benefits of adding your vector data to Google's base map:

  • Improve navigation through your community with new roads and housing developments, bike paths and parcel data.
  • Update major landmarks, natural features, and places of interest in your area.
  • Ensure accurate representation of critical infrastructure like hospitals, police stations and airports.

- Google Maps Basemap

Benefits of sharing aerial imagery:

  • Reach hundreds of millions of Internet users worldwide through Google Earth, Google Maps and Google Maps for mobile
  • Make a positive impact on your community and the world:
    • Simplify navigation and geographic analysis
    • Raise awareness of land use and environmental issues
    • Facilitate emergency management
  • Boost tourism and foster economic development:
    • Enable visitors and tourism agencies to plan and present travel itineraries
    • Support business site location planning
  • Get your organization acknowledged by Google
  • It's free - all you need to do is share your data

- Googe Maps Imagery

Participation can benefit your agency by:

  • Raising awareness of public transportation to attract new riders
  • Helping seasoned riders discover new routes to maximize the your infrastructure investment
  • Linking to your agency website to increase rider awareness
  • Connecting neighboring agencies' data to improve inter-agency connectivity
  • Decreasing traffic congestion and environmental effects while increasing mobility
  • Providing trip planning on both desktop and mobile devices
  • Doing it all for free - all you have to do is share your data

- Google Maps Transit Partners

Sharing 3D data benefits local governments by:
Engaging the public in planning

  • Land use/zoning
  • Redevelopment
  • Historic preservation

Fostering economic development

  • New business recruitment
  • Business site location planning
  • Real estate development

Boosting tourism

  • Landmarks and attractions
  • Community event planning

Simplifying navigation and geographic analysis
Enhancing facilities management
Supporting security and crime prevention
Facilitating emergency management
- Google SketchUp Cities in 3D

Benefits of participating in the Partner Program:

  • Build your global audience and encourage visitors via the #1 mapping site in the world.
  • Add Street View of your location to your website using our API.
  • Show off your property to users who might otherwise not be able to visit you.
  • It's free! Just pick a time for Google to collect the imagery.

- Google Street View Partners

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Organizations or individuals have the opportunity to contribute wetlands data to the wetlands geospatial data layer maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The wetlands data layer is the featured layer on the Wetlands Mapper, forms a catalog component to The National Map and is registered through the Geospatial One-Stop.

The Service will provide proper acknowledgement of all data contributors and maintain data integrity consistent with DOI policy.

- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wetland Contributed Data Page

INSIDE Idaho

INSIDE Idaho welcomes all hosted and virtual data submissions. Once submitted, you can provide the public efficient access to your data through a geospatial data library via the Internet.

Data available through INSIDE Idaho will be highly visible to GIS users in the research, academic, public, and private sectors. Furthermore, INSIDE Idaho is a node on Geospatial One Stop.  INSIDE Idaho staff will aid data contributors in the creation of FGDC-compliant metadata if necessary.

- INSIDE Idaho Data Submit Page





Published Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Written by Adena Schutzberg


Published in

Government


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