Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Open Geospatial and why we should care

The next Geo: The Big 5 event, Open Geospatial in Belfast is approaching fast. I am not going to launch into a lengthy debate about Open Source vs Proprietary GIS systems or similar. This has been done to death and by people much better placed to talk about it than me.

What I will say is that this event is about much more than open source software and has a relevance to all producers and consumers of geospatial information. The full programme will be released soon but some of the highlights among the speakers include Denise McKenzie from OGC,  Eoin McFadden from DETI NI and Dr Tracy Lauriat from NIRSA (National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analytics) who is highly regarded for her work with open data in Canada.

Following on from the Future Cities event the increasing opening up of data and the innovation and benefit this can bring to both the public and private sectors look to be a key themes. Whilst increasing use of open data seems on the face of it to be more of a benefit to the public sector in enabling joined up thinking and better decision making this is of course a huge opportunity for companies to sell their expertise and help various authorities and departments make the most of their data.

The less glamorous but vitally important cousin of open data is open standards. We were recently lucky enough to have a presentation from the AGI Standards Committee in a recent council meeting and for someone who has always seen standards as rather dry this was a real eye opener. If as an industry and a society we are to benefit from the increasing availability of data we need to ensure data standards are applied and followed in as universal a way as possible. It would be a great shame to find that one local authority was making data available in a format that was incompatible with other authorities’ data or to find that a contractor was collecting data that didn’t match up with their other data sets (an all too common occurrence in the private sector). We want to ensure that open data is a methodology to break down silos not just create a whole host of new ones. Again this is likely to be very much on the agenda particularly the panel debate, with the conversation following on from an Open Standards event the AGI is holding in London the day before.

Open is important whoever you are in geospatial. If you’re a user of geographic information then come along and see how you can be getting the most from opening up your data and if you’re a supplier or consultant then you should be exhibiting and showing of how you can help the clients make the most of their data (and accumulate more and more relevant data).

You can book for the event here; it’s only £49+VAT for AGI members (which is very cheap really). Remember these are UK wide issues and Belfast is only a short flight from most major UK cities and it’s on a Tuesday so you can tack it on to a holiday, explore Northern Ireland and make a long weekend of it.

For our corporate members this is a great opportunity to get your expertise with open in front of an increasingly geo savvy public sector from across Northern Ireland and the Republic. You can view and book sponsorship options or email

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