Archive for the ‘community’ tag
I’ve been meaning to blog about this sooner, but have been pretty busy with work. A chance email on a NZ GIS list that I belong to two weeks ago, inspired me to go out on a limb and see if I could get some Government data. I saw a post from someone within the Transit (soon to be merged into the New Zealand Transport Agency) refering to working with 2.2 million trackpoints from a roading survey. I started a private email discussion, and after a couple discussions, I soon had 2.2 million trackpoints from the 2008 High Speed Data Collection survey of New Zealand State Highway network.
My intention of obtaining this data was to be able to convert it to GPX files and upload it as a raw data survey layer to OpenStreetMap (OSM) so that it could be used as the basis for mapping New Zealand’s State Highway network in OSM.
I had some help from John McCombs from Integrated Mapping in Christchurch who very kindly reprojected all the points to WGS84. I then spent 4 evenings last week converting to GPX and uploading the files to OSM.
Was this data essential to mapping the highways in OSM? No. But it was a great experiment to see if a New Zealand Government Agency was willing to release data under acceptable terms and conditions – this dataset is licensed under the Creative Commons v3 Attritbution ShareAlike license, and effectively turn the raw data over for public consumption. Naturally, this doesn’t contain all of the detailed geometry that is collected during the survey, so not all of the data was made available, but we got the most important – latitude and longitude, and a lot of them!
For more information, see the following links.
One of the key points I was trying to make, was indicating that citizens are actually interested in accessing government data such as this, and that agencies should take a more proactive approach to releasing data for the world. After all, data is global these days – put it on the Internet and anyway can access it.
I wanted to share some extremely disappointing news that I received today. The National Address Register project has been terminated.
This project had the intention of providing a single national authoritative dataset for roads, addresses and placename information. The potential of this project was to deliver a free dataset that all organisations and individuals in New Zealand were free to use. This would have made a fantastic resource, and had the potential to consolidate a number of mapping projects, and could have greatly simplified the work associated with project such as the NZ Open GPS Maps project, as the NAR would have provided a single national focal point for feedback and correction of road and address information.
The cynic in me says that the reason this project failed was because of the commercial interests in existing roading datasets. Currently there are multiple roading datasets from different providers, and they are making very good money from these. Some roading datasets sell for six figure sums on an annual basis. Naturally, very few organisations can afford these prices, so only large Government agencies tend to be able to purchase them. Suffice to say, these datasets are different, and there is not a single authoritative dataset amongst them.
The NAR had the potential to create a single, free and authoritative road, address and placename dataset. Tenders were invited for the project, and there was going to be only one organisation to win the tender. As a result, all but one of the current commercial providers stood to lose their revenue streams from their roading datasets. As you will see in the notification below, the tenders were too expensive. I believe that it was in all the commercial vendors interests to put in high tender prices to ensure that the NAR did not go ahead, and that they could protect their existing revenue streams rather than risk missing the tender and losing it all.
The upshot of this is that my faith in the Government to provide geospatial information to its citizens is now close to zero. If they are not capable of producing a single authoritative roading dataset (arguably one of the most important sets of spatial information as it defines most of our physical connectivity) then there is little hope of them being able to deliver any useful spatial information to citizens.
As the NZ Open GPS Maps, Zenbu and NZ Open Street Map projects have shown us, a volunteer community can develop products faster and cheaper than commercial or government organisations, and over time they will have better quality as well.
I believe the time has come for us to build more volunteer communities to provide spatial information that our Government is failing to provide to us. No longer can we wait upon them, rather we must build it ourselves. There are four key areas that we need to focus on.
1. Raw data collection – taking our GPS units out into the real world and collecting and sharing data. Collecting track logs and uploading these to the OpenStreetMap or NZ Open GPS Maps projects. Providing waypoints to OSM and Zenbu. Please – if you haven’t already, consider donating some time and information to these projects so that they have raw data to work with. This ‘field survey’ work is essential to creating our own spatial information resources. (I would particularly encourage geocachers to contribute their tracklogs if at all possible as we tend to travel a little more than others)
2. Mapping – converting the data collected in the field to information. Creating vectors for road lines, adding street name, directions, speeds. Using your local knowledge to map the community around you.
3. End products – converting the spatial information into a form suitable for others to use, for example the NZ Open GPS Maps project producing Garmin map files that can be loaded into GPS units.
4. Distribution – due to the large quantities of information involved, we may need to look at creating an ad-hoc network of individuals and websites to share the vast quantities of information about our country via torrents or similar P2P mechanism.
I believe the time has come for all those that want better access to spatial information to go out there and be a part of collecting, and building it. We can’t wait for Government to build it for us, so we will have to do it ourselves.
Let’s get started.
SUBJECT: NAR PROJECT TERMINATEDThe National Address Register (NAR) project is a cross-government initiative set up to develop infrastructure to improve the provision of address, road and place name information for government agencies, businesses and the wider community.
The project is over-seen by a Steering Committee comprised of representatives of key stakeholders from central government, local government and emergency services agencies.
An integral part of developing a business model and business case for the National Address Register (NAR) was to assess whether there was a supplier able to provide the relevant services and to identify the likely costs. An RFP process was chosen as the most effective way of identifying both of these.
Following assessment of the tender proposals, the Steering Committee has decided to terminate the project. Despite the project showing considerable potential to reduce duplication across government and reduce costs, it is too expensive to proceed with in its current form.
Further investigation into the need for, and the most cost-effective way of providing address, road and place information, will be led by the New Zealand Geospatial Office, within their mandate under the NZ Geospatial Strategy. This work will include determining the optimal role for the Crown, local government and the private sector. Brendon Whiteman, Director New Zealand Geospatial Office - email@example.com; will be happy to answer any queries that you may have in relation to these activities in the context of the overall work programme of the Geospatial Office.
It is expected that agencies will continue with existing arrangements they have for the purchase of this location data, from the commercial sector.
Nancy McBeth of the State Services Commission, is preparing a Lessons Learnt report on the NAR project. If you have some views that you would like considered in that report, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org by 31 May 2008.
On his return from Annual Leave next week, Laurence Millar, Chair of the NAR Steering Committee will formally write to your Chief Executive to advise of the decision.
Operational Owner NAR project
Received from a public email list I subscribe to.
Just wanted to add some brief comments following discussion as GOVIS 2008, in the ‘Our Place in Space’ stream. This was held in Wellington last Friday. At the end of the day I raised the following challenging comments to the audience, and they seemed to be well received. I will be reviewing and adding to these in the near future.
1. Don’t wait for application ideas or business cases. Free as much data as possible and the applications will follow. The killer application for your data has not been invented yet.
2. Consider community and volunteers. We are enthusiastic, have a huge capacity to learn, we have a hunger for data, and if it suits us we will dedicate massive amounts of time to it. Our expectations are being fed by online mapping and we want more.
3. Spatial citizens don’t care about arbitrary political boundaries and are happy acting with national and even international datasets. We don’t want to work with 80+ Local Government agencies. We want it to be trivial to find spatial information. Let us integrate the data we want using our own systems. We want to package the data our way. We want to take it out into the real world where there is no web access. We want to fix your data, but only if it is fixed once and fixed fast. LINZ – are you listening? We can do it in 24 hours and we’re not getting paid to do it. We will only get faster, more competent, and hungrier for information about our place in space…