How do OpenStreetMap and open government geodata fit together?

In a recent post, I was examining whether OpenStreetMap is a suitable place for open governmental geodata by cross-checking if the OpenStreetMap is compliant with the ten principles for open data. Out of the ten principles, nine can be considered compliant and one non-compliant. Meanwhile, I have discussed this topic with a wide range of people and read many articles.  However, I have not yet found any place that would be perfect for open governmental geodata, not with ESRI or elsewhere.

In addition to the ten principles, another requirement emerged that was almost always stated by the authorities that look for publishing data: The data should not only be available for download in a machine-readable format, but a user should also be able to visualise the data.
Finally, I came up with a solution that fulfills all of the requirements: publishing the geodata through the OpenStreetMap tool chain under a public domain licence. This would not only fulfill all of the requirements, but also offer some additional advantages.

What would this look like?

The OpenStreetMap tool chain is the underlying software that is used to store, edit and display the OpenStreetMap data – independent from the data licence. The default tool chain is open-source software that is free of charge and has been thoroughly tested by the more than 300.000 registered users.

The tool chain can be established with a blank database that serves as a target for the authority’s dataset, which is intended to be opened. It can be run by any hosting provider. When the tool chain is set up, the authority can import its data into the empty database and then release it under a data licence of its choice.

The infrastructure enables a machine-readable download of the data, displaying the data on the Web or accessing it through the API of the tool chain.


* refers to the ten principles for open data

What are the additional advantages?

The authority can publish the dataset by making use of the OpenStreetMap infrastructure without being bound to the OpenStreetMap licence. As the tool chain is free of charge, costs apply only for establishing and running the infrastructure.

In addition, a dataset that is published through the OpenStreetMap tool chain can be easily imported into the OpenStreetMap data so that the OpenStreetMap community can benefit from the data.

The authority also has the option to make their data available in a read-only or editable form. In the case of the latter, everyone who can edit the OpenStreetMap data is also able to edit the authority’s data, as editors such as JOSM or Potlatch would be fully functional on the authority’s dataset.

Who can help?

In principle, everyone who is involved with OpenStreetMap can assist. A handful of companies exist that are in position to establish such an infrastructure, provide guidance and import the dataset into a “blank OpenStreetMap database”. The selection process for the right integration partner could be performed by a tender process. However, the company that is probably most suitable is Geofabrik in Karlsruhe, Germany. The company has several years of experience with the tool chain and it knows how to convert and import datasets of any format.

9 thoughts on “How do OpenStreetMap and open government geodata fit together?

  1. Oliver Kühn

    @GeoGeek: Not true. The ESRI Community Platform is an environment for authoritative data where "everybody" can put their data, which then can be used as base map.

  2. morb_au

    CommonMap is already well down the runway on this. CommonMap also believes in opening up what you might call the "11th and 12th" open data principles: 11. Allow the government to accept changes back from the community; and 12. Allow different tiers of government to merge their geodata holdings.You offer public domain as a contributor term, however, not all copyright jurisdictions recognise public domain. Even if proactive PD was available, mapping agencies would tend to avoid it anyway.This helps to actually justify a choice of CC BY (non SA) as the default licence, as it still allows for the provenance of contributions to be tracked.

  3. Oliver Kühn

    When you say "This helps to actually justify a choice of CC BY (non SA) as the default licence" do you mean as default licence for OpenStreetMap? In case, I would not agree as the SA licence is in the spirit of the project and just to support Open Government Data initiatives is not sufficient to justify a change of the licence type.

  4. morb_au

    No, as the default licence for CommonMap. Also, when referring to "when the tool chain is set up, the authority can import its data into the empty database and then release it under a data licence of its choice," I’m predicting that CC BY will be the typical licence actually chosen.I’m not expecting OSM to drop the SA clause. Mind you, the proposed Contributor Terms v1.0 do state at paragraph 3, "or another free and open license". So even the OSM consensus is leaving the door open…

  5. Oliver Kühn

    @morb_au: Sorry for the confusion. BTW: I looked at and I think it is hard to understand the purpose, which audience your are addressing with CommonMap and what are the differences to OSM and co (the same problem that I had with ESRI’s community map programme in the beginning). Maybe you want to have a look at the About and FAQ pages again..

  6. morb_au

    I can believe the confusion. I haven’t spent a lot of time refining my arguments there. Too busy banging servers into shape just now.

  7. Andrew Zaborowski

    @morb_au: You said the mapping agencies would tend to avoid PD, but as it happens some of them are publishing under PD for many years and there was recently a thread on the osm lists about a goverment institution (USGS in the US) wanting to use osm — or a similar project’s — data and not being able to. As far as I understand CC-By will be equally problematic to them.Funnily I had a blog post (unfortunately in Polish) at just a couple of weeks ago examining the pssible ways governments and OSM could co-operate, looking precisely at the USGS case, but also at cases where the co-operation happened in different areas than *data* itself. For example in the UK OSM was one of the bodies consulted when drafting the OS open license, in Paris the local government wants to use the ODbL, USGS wants to use the OSM toolchain, and then in Germany some government websites just have a osm slippymap (similar to change,gov). Finally a very interesting (to me) case of two weeks ago is the meeting Iván Sánchez of OSM-Spain held with Spain’s national mapping agencies, IGN & CNIG, where they drafted some very precise (and often surprising) rules under which they could co-operate.

  8. DruidSmith

    In the US, government data typically falls under the blue-sky, Public Domain license. CC-BY and ODbL, while probably favorable, do not work with Public Domain. So, how to address it? Via an alternate toolchain – perhaps. Potentially, put your government data into OSM, with an Edit URL that sends them to your toolchain, do a passthrough with OSM credentials, and flow the changes back to OSM. Technically, you may then still own the data and can release it PD in that case.But, there are other potential questions – by driving users to your tool chain from OSM, do you impose something that may fall under the Paperwork Reduction Act, something that demands an ICR? Maybe, maybe not. Some challenges that I’m still grappling with, myself. Hopefully these are questions which can be addressed.

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