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How to get open geo data on the road!

2011 October 21

While attending the Open Government Data Camp I gave a short talk on the topic above. I do not want to pretend to know too much about it; it is basically adding up experiences from joining open data events and discussing the topic there (and with Esri colleagues afterwards).

I learned from my first lightning talk that 5 minutes is really not a lot of time… My intro was about some really cool maps and a bit of background on how mapping used be very much closed (and still is/needs to be in some environments).

My main points (tips if you will) are:

Get community
Understand what it takes to support a community of people. In particular, on the production side and on the usage side (three is not a crowd, it is a starting point). Working for/with communities is actually kind of hard. Common goals and regular meetups are important factors.

Get ecosystem
My favorite word and not related to the pictures I used: ecosystem. Find the right mix of knowledge, data, tools, experience, skills, people etc. Sorry, no golden rule here. But the right mix is very important. And look for continuity.

Helps a lot to find out where you might be going as an organisation with open data. On the geo side I always advise to have a closer look at openstreetmap. Contribute data and just see what happens. Work with some more advanced options in (pardon my bias here)

Develop policy as you go
Do make a few guidelines at the start, but don’t go for a complete set of policies. And please do keep ‘user’ and ‘usage’ in the back of your mind. It is not much fun when you put in all the effort to open up data and no one ever uses it.

Go easy on the arguments
I observed one can bring the open data argument from many different angels: open society, PSI, technology, even ethics. Personally, I prefer the practical approach: it very much looks like open data will be a fact of life in a few years time. Let’s work together on a first few steps to get there.

In closing: government has no monopoly over open data, citizens and firms need to contribute as well! This movement needs help from many others in society in order to become successful. I pledged to work on some case studies in the coming year and hope to present them next year at OGD Camp. It really was a great event to attend and contribute to! (it beats FOSS4G by at least a factor 2, but that is a different story).

BTW, new word of the day: micro-startup (a startup with no office!)

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