Free Our Data discussion in the US

Here is an interesting article on European data policies and Inspire that I stumbled upon at Directions.

Worth noting that this was written several months before the Guardian campaign kicked off.

Of particular interest are the comments from Roger Longhorn which punch a bit oif a hole in the everything is dandy in the US myth:

I think it is important to remember that, in the USA, free (no cost) access to geodata applies only to federally collected (or paid for) data. State and local government, holders of vast quantities of geodata, can (and some do) charge for access and/or exploitation of these important, typically large scale, geodata resources.

Much of the topographic mapping maintained by USGS was reported, by a senior official at USGS, in Science magazine, vol 298, 6 Dec 2002, pp 1874-1875, as being as much as 25 years out of date. From the article:

“As USGS’s priorities shifted toward scientific research, its mapping program languished. As a result, while towns went boom and bust and landmarks such as airports, buildings, and parks spread and dwindled, the topo maps lagged further and further behind the landscape they represented. Today, the maps are only sporadically updated, and some are 57 years old.”

This situation – and the anticipated cost (“Ryan estimates that delivering the fullscale National Map in 10 years would require $150 million a year — roughly twice the current budget.” Science article quote) helped foster The National Map (TNM) project, under which state and local government bodies are encouraged (not legally required) to contribute their geodata to USGS. Another US official mentioned to me as recently as this month (February) that TNM “was having problems”.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of free access to public services, including information services and the supporting data, already paid for by taxpayers. But *everything* has a cost – and funding priorites to be met – even in the USA.

Worth thinking about?