The principle of free and open access to government geospatial data has been adopted by many governments including US Federal, Canada, Japan, South Africa, Brazil, California, and by the City of Vancouver and other cities. But being able to access prepared maps and other derived material is just a first step, governments need to provide access to raw geospatial data in commonly used Web-friendly formats. Tim Berners-Lee, in Government Data Design Issues, is a strong advocate of making raw data accessible over the web including supporting standard Web methods, most critically, searching.
I blogged previously about an initiative called GeoREST developed by Haris Kurtagic and implemented by Jason Birch at Nanaimo for property records that attempted to enable visual browsing of open datasets, support standard search engines, plus enable simple access to raw geospatial data in web-friendly formats such as GeoJSON.
What do users want ?
In light of this Bill Morris has developed an alternative way of accessing public datasets that he feels is compelling to technicians as well as to the lay public, as an example, a template geoportal for accessing multipurpose public data, specifically, building records.
He targeted his geoportal on two audiences:
- Citizens who want to access their own zoning information and permit history fast. These folks can search for address, see buildings in context, and get the basic information in one minute or less.
- GIS analysts who want to download raw building footprint geodata for urban planning, disaster response or cartography. Thes folks acn download all the features within the current view extent, in a choice of interoperable formats.