I was catching up on my blog reading and came across a fascinating post on Fred Taylor’s Google Earth Blog from a few days ago (with some more Detail on Dan Karran’s blog). In short the post talked about a project where Google has been sending “care packages” to cities they do not have good street and local data for – like Hyderabad, India. The yet to be revealed package has software and tools that allows citizen cartographers to go out and create street and local interest data. It would be fascinating to see what Google has put together for the package, but we can see what OpenStreetMaps has put together to successfully achieve roughly the same objective.
In my last post I talked about the Open Source GeoWeb and what was possible with citizen cartographers and low cost democratized technology. I had originally envisioned this being in the grass roots mold of OpenStreetMaps, but it looks like Google is going to be playing a (big?) part in driving the effort. I guess this is not a gigantic surprise. Someone asked me at the OSM “State of the Map” conference how the Google ecosystem would adapt to a growing successful user generated movement like OSM – buy, duplicate, ignore, partner? Looks like we have a first part of the answer with more to be revealed in the future.
The implications, in general and for OSM specifically, lead to a ton of questions (Is Google paying the data generators? Who are the data generators? Who owns the data? How is Google’s user generated data licensed? Owned by Google? Creative Commons with attribution? Could it be combined with open source project like OSM (i.e. partnership) or would it pollute to CC license? etc. etc.).
Since I have little insight on any of these I am left pondering the long term question of what this all means for geodata more broadly. The “care package” news came from a wide ranging presentation Michael Jones gave in Cambridge, UK. In it he talks not only about the India “user generated” data initiative, but also their desire to work with governments directly to use Google as a portal to make geodata available to their citizens. This brings in another integral set of licensing and redistribution/reuse questions, but regardless it would be worlds better than the current arrangement of proprietary GIS software and data standards used today. The kicker of course is if the governments do not want cooperate Google can now go the user generated content route (for instance India has data but it doe not license it to 3rd parties). Quite clever from a negotiation stand point.
Lastly if users have been this effective in creating descriptive data (push pins with text and pictures), what is the potential of them creating feature attributed data that provides statistics about a location like population, pollution emission levels, crime rates that enable another level of description and analysis? If crazy schedules do not get the better of us we’ll have tools out to help that cause shortly.
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