What is Open Data?

More than publishing information for free access – open data provides a mechanism for participants to contribute change back as equal partners in data collection and review.

Open Data applies the principles of free and open to geospatial data, allowing communities to collaborate on a data product.

By applying the lessons learned in the open source industry to data collection and maintenance a new generation of data products is being realized in our field.

About Open Data

As with many things the GIS industry has pioneered the development in this area with the foundational EPSG database showing how common data, in this case spatial reference system definitions, can enable interoperability across commercial, academic and governmental use. As an early example the EPSG license does not exactly meet the modern definition of open data

Just like with open source individual communities choose an appropriate license to realize their goals:

  • Public Domain – many databases are placed into the public domain, allowing easy access, but not necessarily an easy way to contribute back.
  • Creative Commons – documentation and creative work licenses have also been successfully applied to databases
  • Open Data Commons Open Database License (ODbL) – provides a database specific license with terms similar to creative commons

A good resource to learn more about open data licenses is Open Data Commons responsible for the definitions above.

OSGeo Partners and Friends

The Open Source Geospatial Foundation is pleased to acknowledge the work of our friends in the open geospatial community that are working on Open Data:

  •  openstreetmap.org – OpenStreetMap is a crowd sourced map of the world which has grown to become one of the most detailed sources of local-scale map data available. Affectionatel known as OSM the OpenStreetMap project uses the Open Database License for their work.
  •  naturalearthdata.com Natural Earth publishes a public domain map dataset featuring tightly integrated vector and raster data.
  • geonames.org –  is an impressive point of interest database covers all countries with over eleven million named locations.  GeoNames is published using a Creative Commons Attribute license.

OSGeo Sponsors

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