Wednesday, 20 August 2014
data opennessThe issue of open data, accessible and available, has long been source of discussion for many participants involved in the geomatics and geospatial industry. There are many reasons for data being confined including data formats, policy, lack of resources, inability among them. But culture also plays an important role, and at a time when growth, jobs and economic efficiency are high on the agenda, it makes good 'common and business sense' to have more people, not less, developing and innovating on geospatial data. 
In the Nature magazine article 'Cultural history holds back Chinese research', author Peng Gong suggests that culture is playing a large role in preventing further Chinese research advancement. He points to geospatial examples. "For example, the China Meteorological Administration has some 2,000 weather stations, from which it gathers the information used to issue weather forecasts, among other things... yet it does not make them available." 

In addition, "when the Chinese government funded a 46-million-renminbi (US$7-million) global land-cover mapping project in 2009, it ruled that none of the money could be paid to collaborators in foreign countries. A global project, of course, needs samples to be collected from all over the world," Gong says.

He cites many cultural reasons that are also contributing to bottlenecks in performing research.

Open geodata does not necessarily mean free data, although it is often more widely distributed.  Openness implies a willingness to provide others with access to geospatial and geomatic data in the hopes that they can build, develop and create innovations and solutions that will benefit residents and society. This includes provision for higher levels of interoperability. There are many examples around the world where both free and non-free data co-exist.

The highest quality data, in many places, is often not free. Costs are often involved where the highest quality data is used. This reflects on the cost of obtaining, maintaining and distributing the data for many places.  ASM has written about the value of high quality geodata extensively here, here and here.

In Asia, many countries now recognize that economic development is directly linked to geospatial data and improved interoperability and availability, and they are pushing to include more use of geospatial data.

With the development of technologies for overcoming data format issues, interoperability and standardisationpolicies, it is time to remedy some of the cultural issues preventing wider geodata use.

More use and accessibility means more solutions. And improving quality of life and security in society for all of us is a worthy goal. 

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Vector1 Media publishes Sensors & Systems (, Informed Infrastructure ( and Asian Surveying & Mapping (ASM).  Each of these publications deal with the application of sensing and modeling for different scales of geography. Sensors & Systems explores global change, Informed Infrastructure examines smart city applications and technology, and ASM covers geospatial technology application in Asia-Pacific.


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