No fear mapping with OpenStreetMaps

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Tvm: At a time when security concerns and proprietary issues are being raised about Google maps, there is a viable alternative available – of the people and by the people. Welcome to the world of OpenStreetMaps.

OpenStreetMap is a free editable map of the whole world which allows one to view, edit and use geographical data in a collaborative way from anywhere on Earth. The forthcoming Google mapping party in Trivandrum has raised concerns from various quarters. The Intelligence Wing of Kerala Police has expressed certain security concerns over the detailed mapping project of state under Land Information Mission (Bhoomi Keralam) and other agencies. For the users and collaborators, it’s a question of who owns the public data once it is mapped. Most locality maps (Google / Nokia Maps) have legal or technical restrictions on their use (read only), holding back people from using them in creative, productive, or unexpected ways.

OpenStreetMap is an effort to counter this and offer rights free and accessible data to everyone. Openstreetmap mapping parties are community’s way to generate such freely available and community owned data. A few such exercises have been held and the data is available for public consumption without restrictions through the OpenStreetMap website for Technopark, Calicut NIT, Fort Kochi Heritage Walk, etc.

The Free Software User’s Group in Trivandrum feels that mapping parties (whether OpenStreetMap or private) come under our constitution’s guarantee of free speech. Condemning mapping parties in the name under farcical and short sighted claims of security would be a violation of the democratic governance. Moreover, content generated by such mapping parties are extremely useful for the general public. Eg. when organising an event , pointing out the location in a map that’s available online will be useful.

They are also of the view that government departments are actually giving unnecessary publicity / endorsement to privately held companies like Google. It will be far better if the government were to sponsor OpenStreetMap mapping parties and generate maps for their own use. Government can also release the data they own (the land survey information) through the OpenStreetMap effort and ensure that all data is publicly owned and need not be licensed from a private company.

The FSUG hopes that people who take part in the next week’s mapping party will share the data they generate with the OpenStreetMap website also so that it stays in public domain and will be of great use to the general public.

Anil Philip
Kerala IT News

Also read our earlier story Mapping Party in Trivandrum

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