This wiki has been archived and is now read-only.

Best Practices/Free our maps

From Share-PSI EC Project
Jump to: navigation, search





The session was dedicated to the importance of releasing public geodata over the Internet, under an open license and in a reusable format.

Geodata is a broad term that refers to data that has a spatial component, defined through various methods, such as pairs of coordinates, name of location, address identifiers etc. Its usage is wide spread over various domains, such as: natural resources, government, mapping, health services, transportation, communications and utilities, military, public safety and the list may continue.

In the last decades, given the considerable technological and informational progress, the geoinformation private sector has flourished. Companies that offer services and products based on geodata have seen an increase in number and profit. World leading companies, such as Google, Yahoo, Nokia, Apple and more, have turned a deep focus towards GI (Geospatial Information), developing services and products that have ultimately and permanently changed the way in which geodata is perceived by the wider community. Furthermore, the community itself stepped up, building an international network that, in a collaborative, volunteer and open manner, works to build an open map of the world. The success of OpenStreetMap and its ever-growing community is no longer a surprise. Notable is the forked humanitarian initiative that has strongly developed in recent years, with impressive results.

Nonetheless, we consider that, that there is an immense untapped resource of geospatial information, and that is represented by the databases of national agencies and institutions that have produced and collected data within national monitoring networks and research projects for an extensive period of time. Thus, we have proposed an open discussion related to geodata relevant matters, in the given context, such as: quality and relevance, bridging community driven geodata with public geodata, legislation aspects: connection between PSI Directive and INSPIRE Directive, technical issues.



GI (Geospatial Information) is a vast domain, with extensions in every filed that makes use at some point of geo-referenced data, thus developing complex relations when we discuss quality, relevance, importance, technological and/or legislative matters. More over, there is a vast and various poll of professionals that use this kind of data in different stages of their work, stages more or less important.

Therefore, in building a best practice study case on geodata, there is a considerable diversity that needs to be taken into account.

In Free our Maps practice, we have envisioned the following major themes, detailing for each what we considered to be significant.

1. Open geodata: Quality and relevance. Where to draw the line?

The main perspective in open (geo)data was for the public agencies to just release their existing datasets and the community and private sector will take it from there. After significant efforts lead by various countries, a need has been identified, both by the community and by the public administration. Although, governmental agencies have significant databases, it is possible that not all of them have a significant high value that will balance the ratio of costs needed to release the datasets and the possible added value. Through this topic we aim to bring to light from experienced participants ideas and perspective on how to tackle the issue of prioritizing the release of datasets.

The quality of public geodata is a complex matter, as it can easily turn into a barrier for releasing it as open due to fear of community disapproval. Nonetheless, there are numerous cases where the release of public data has lead to its significant improvement.

Regarding the community driven data, the relevance is high by its definition, whereas the quality is an ongoing campaign lead through means of technology (building more complex editor tools) or means of social awareness.

We want to discuss of:

  • On what grounds should relevance be build, economic, social, research grounds ?
  • Imagining a geodata relevance classification.
  • Quality matters, but enough to discourage potential public data owners?
  • Quality in community driven data. How to build trust in the quality and sustainability of community driven data projects? Are quality markers a solution?

2. Different angles of open geodata understanding: public sector, private sector and academia

In this part of the session, we envision a few lighting talks regarding perspectives and important highlights upon geodata from people in the three sectors enumerated. We are specifically interested in points of view regarding what opportunities, development are foreseen within each sector.

3. Power to the people: bridging community driven data with public data

The community driven data projects were born out of need of data, data that even though might have existed, was not available at reasonable costs. Nowadays, the open (geo)data initiative has brought to light an immense poll of data. To best use these 2 congruent movements, it is important to bind them together.

We want to talk of:

  • Advantages and disadvantages of involving the community in correction processes of public data
  • Examples of tools build to bind together community driven data to public open databases
  • Will the open data movement kill the community driven data projects?

4. Legislation matters - the impact of INSPIRE Directive to open geodata movement, geodata licenses interoperability

Technical issues on releasing public geodata as open data: platforms, formats, tools developmentTechnical issues on releasing public geodata as open data: platforms, formats, tools development

5. Technical issues on releasing public geodata as open data: platforms, formats, tools development

This part of the section we reserve for stirring discussions on advantages and disadvantages for using different methods and technologies for releasing public data. API or bulk files? Socrata or CKAN?


The best solution, we could envision for this practice study case was understanding our audience, poking their interests and gathering information regarding their basic professional background. This activity allows the facilitator to get a picture of the participants interests, knowledge, day-to-day professional activity, thus helping in constructing and leading the discussions. The process of uncovering the audience usually starts with an invitation to introduce themselves and their interest in the topic, then continues with sharing the reasons for which they chose this session and not another one.

Considering the general topics that we wanted to address in this study case detailed at the Challenge section, we drafted a number of questions that would help us construct the dialog between people with different professional backgrounds and interests related to open geodata and geodata, in general. The list was available on the workshop's webpage for consultation prior to the event. At the beginning of our talk, we also distributed the questions, so participants could easily navigate through, an otherwise, difficult variety of topics.

In the following, we have inserted the list of questions. Each main topic was subdivided into questions meant to offer a preview on the way we wanted to built the discussions, but to offer each participant the opportunity to ask questions or to share a relevant opinion with the audience, as well.

Discussion topics and questions – questions for participants

1. Different angles of open geodata understanding: public sector, private sector and academia.

2. Open geodata: Quality and relevance. Where to draw the line?

(a) What does data quality refer to?

(b) What are the essential characteristics that an open dataset must comply to in order to be considered of “quality” and why? Is it more important to be complete or accessible?

(c) Turning towards community driven data, what should quality refer to in community driven data?

(d) Community driven data projects biggest enemy – malevolence. Thoughts?

(e) What is data relevance? Economic profit should be essential in relevance of open geodata? Or social participation? Should a classification help?

3. Power to the people: bridging community driven data with public data

(a) Identify advantages and disadvantages of involving the community in correction processes of public data

(b) Will the open data movement kill the community driven data projects?

4. Legislation matters

(a) What is the perception level on legislation regarding open (geo)data?

(b) How is legislation on PSI affecting the private/ public/civil sector?

(c) Name relevant issues that could be addressed by legislation

(d) INSPIRE and PSI Directive

5. Technical issues

(a) What is most preferably, bulk data or. API? Remember US Gov lockdown.

(b) How to overcome the difficulties of data harmonization?

(c) Technical issues related to user contribution

Even though, we initially intended this list to assist us in building a concentrated discussion on 1 or 2 main topics, given the diversity of participants, their interests and professional background, we have decided to follow the list of questions and insist on those that spirited the participants.



Given the complexity of the theme, we consider that we have successfully managed the discussions extracting important conclusions that we could present in the plenary of the Share -PSI 2.0 workshop Open Data Priorities and Engagement — Identifying data sets for publication.

We consider that the approach we adopted, drafting the preparation document and disseminating it before the session, inviting participants to present themselves and afterwards, to initiate the discussions, gave good results and it can be classified as a best practice.

The impact is considerable, taking into account the importance and the multitude of fields in which geodata is used more or less intensively. Moreover, it is a significant aspect that geodata does not come from only one resource or sector. It can be produced or collected by private companies, by voluntary communities, by non-profit organizations and of course, by the public administration. It is often common that geodata that comes from all of these different resources intersect by geographical extent, scope, theme etc. Therefore, in an effort to create complete, accurate, up to date geographical databases that are available for the entire community, it is important to analyze the best approaches to be considered, regardless the specific topic, legislative, technical, economic and so on.

In Free our Maps practice, we have identified the immediate necessity of approaching the INSPIRE1 community asking for a geospatial base dataset to be available as a reference data set for PSI. This would allow geo-referencing other datasets that are available through PSI, such as statistical data, adding value to the information available to the community.


(Please use one or more of the categories listed on the last page of this document, as many as relevant)

- Policies and legislation (legal requirements, licenses etc..) / Licensing of information/data and metadata

- Dataset criteria and priorities and value and scope w.r.t. datasets

- Data quality issues and solutions / Quality assurance, feedback channels and evaluation

- Selection of information/data to be published according to various criteria


Considering the actual context and keeping in mind the expected and publicized trend of release of public data under a free license, we consider the case study dedicated to the importance of one particular type of data, public geodata, should be a priority for the relevant parties, such as civil servants working within national agencies and institutions, GI people in the private sector and even academia people. Why? Because there are a multitude of complex standpoints that should be debated, whether it regards legislative framework, technical complications or the implication of the wider interested and sometimes volunteer community in data collection, reviewing, analyzing and so on.


As it can be outlined from the points regarding challenge and solution in the Management section, one can observe that this best practice does not need significant additional materials, or complex infrastructure. It is essential though, in our opinion, to prepare before the event, outlines of the topics facilitators intend to cover and to disseminate them among participants before the actual event. As mentioned before, the complexity of the main theme, open public geodata, demands a structure, that can of course be changed during the discussion with respect to the participants' interests, but nonetheless, a framework that will not allow divagations, or a too deep focus on one too particular matter. Even more, the existence of an outline of relevant topics will assist the facilitator to not remain without discussions subjects and inquiries.


Yes and even more, it is in our opinion that it is highly desirable and necessary that all member states consider organizing, supporting and promoting open public geodata discussions. Geodata is as ubiquitous as useful and significant element for developing our smart communities, be they at city, region or country level.

Regardless the amount of geodata available for a topic/geographical extent/ with a certain accuracy/scale/format/ produced or collected by private companies, such as Google or through voluntary participations, such as OpenStreetMap, we consider the public geodata is an immense untapped resource that should definitely be freely and readily available for the community to exploit, to improve and to build upon.


Codrina Ilie, codrina@geo-spatial.org, @codrinai Vasile Cr?ciunescu, vasile@geo-spatial.org, @vcraciunescu

1 http://inspire.ec.europa.eu/ last accessed 12.05.2015