Fossgis: eGovernment, free software, open source and open data - Arnulf Christl

Tags: fossgis, geo

Ok, Arnulf apologizes for presenting on a windows laptop…

eGovernment, what is that really? Are electrons ruling us or what? One thing the government is apparently meaning with it is trying to cut costs and simplifying things and other beautiful terminology. There are also quite a number of EU research projects. INSPIRE, IDABC, ISA and other acronyms. There’s also eDemocracy: making processes and interaction simpler, probably.

Let’s look at the theory. Democracy means power in the hands of the people. Volksherrschaft. Participation of the people. Does politics really want this? Participation of the people? Doesn’t the political system want to keep itself in power?

Regarding maps, maps started out as instrument of the powerful and became an instrument of the institutional political system. Suddenly everything changed regarding maps: openstreetmap. A free editable map of the world.

Our open map data ranks high on Tim Berners Lee’s five-star system. We get five stars. We identify everything with URLs. We even link everything with urls. We have structured data.

Openstreetmap means volutueeed geographic information. But that’s only half the story: it also means free use-ability: you can do with it what you want, you can implement it the way you want.

And what about democracy in our organizations? Well, osgeo is rather more a do-ocracy. The ones who do the work have the power. It works. basically works in the same way.

Some thoughts on free and open source:

  • Proprietary software: it is a basis for a business model. And the license specifies what you’re not allowed to do (not copy, not x, not y).

  • Free software: it is a licence model. Not in free beer, but in freedom of speech.

  • Open source software: it is a development model. Mainly focused on code.

But watch out: your software is worthless without data. For instance in Switzerland, there’s a good set of maps that people can use online, but it is not open data: so you cannot do anything else with it but view the provided images.

Http is the world wide web protocol on the internet. Http links everything together. The web is the application. Open geo data can also be linked together with http. Every individual resource (street, city) must have its own URL and then it can be linked.

In Arnulf’s opinion, eGovernement should aim at open linked data. Free software + open source + internet + web = eGovernment reloaded.

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My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

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