Friday, March 10, 2006

The data wants to be free!

I try to avoid politics in this blog, but this article that Jonathan Harris posted to the scenery list is pretty topical to X-Plane.,,1726985,00.html

Of course I am biased - low-cost high quality data (SRTM, Tiger, etc.) make it possible for a small company like X-Plane to create high quality scenery. But I would also add two more thoughts:

1. Knowledge is crucial to the healthy functioning of a democracy. Without good digital maps, you can't apply modern tools to understanding regional trends, environmental problems, electoral districts, etc. Knowledge shouldn't just be for the rich (or big companies).

2. Geospatial data is infrastructure - free or cheap GIS data make a country a better place to do business. I think in this global economy every national government needs to be asking "what are we doing to make sure our citizens will be competitive on a global level." There's no question that having good roads and transportation infrastructure are important for a national economy, but I would submit that having good digital infrastructure will become important too; in that context it's appropriate for a government to make the data free (and take the local loss in the providing agency) to foster growth, employment, and the well-being of its citizens.

Just my 0.02...

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