Comments > Alberta

From Dr. Stefan Kienzle, an Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta:

Imagine! We all know the sequence of data -> information -> knowledge -> wisdom.
Imagine we all would have access to Canadian data.
Imagine then what ADDITIONAL knowledge would be generated by Universities (research projects etc.), consultancies and anyone using GIS.
All we need are strict standards for added-value products. The national benefit would by far exceed the money that is (not) being made by selling the data.

As a teacher of GIS, I am ashamed that I am forced to use examples outside of Canada because as a University Department, we cannot afford Canadian datasets.

From Anselm Hook, a consultant in Calgary, Alberta:

The U.S. consistently demonstrates a progressive attitude towards providing the kind of infrastructure needed for value added products. By making base datasets and maps free the total benefit to society is vastly greater to all parties. Corporations can focus on value added services rather than competing in low margin commodities. Individuals can explore new ideas in cartography and build new applications that might be the cornerstone of new businesses. The Greenmaps organization is a good example of this. A few years ago the U.S. sought to protect the chip manufacturing industry. They soon learned that the real value wasn't in low margin commodity items, but in fact in high margin software. The entire Silicon Valley revolution came out of that realization. It is time to abandon low margins and seek to encourage higher margin activity.

One particular problem with non free datasets is that the redistribution policies are affected. This means cartographic data can't be shared as easily with as many people. The utility of mapping data can grow dramatically with the number of people that can see and contribute to the dataset, by limiting visibility of the datasets the actual validity of the data is limited. As well certain kinds of applications such as publically available maps cannot be easily made given ambiguous distribution licenses.

However even aside from the clear commercial benefits there are a number of fundamental and intrinsic reasons why datasets should be free. There's been a lot of talk about Cyberspace lately, how people will enter a kind of virtual world, but for right now humans still live very much in the real world, and data about that real world affects us deeply. The right to easy access to 'life information' - any information which affects basic human welfare and quality of life - should be entrenched as one of the highest ideals of government. Ultimately a community is defined by the sum of its knowledge, and data about communities should be free to the members of those communities.

From M. John Hodgson, with the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Services, University of Alberta:

I was not happy with the two choices on Question 5. I think that profit-making enterprises should pay for their raw materials. I also think that the costs charged by the government, in a more or less monopolistic situation, are outrageous.

From Scott Loree of Edmonton Regional Search and Rescue, in Edmonton, Alberta:

Mapping is a serious problem in Search and Rescue - we are often forced to work from poor photocopies of outdated and off-scale trail maps. Since the government will not provide geospatial data free of charge even to non-profit, public service orgs, a comprehensive GIS system to do our job is not within our reach!!!

This SERIOUSLY undermines our ability to perform our task efficiently and in a timely manner.

From John Russell of Geodyssey Limited in Calgary, Alberta:

Spatial data ostensibly "owned" and offered for sale by our Canadian federal, provincial and municipal governments is the property of the taxpayers of the respective jurisdictions. It can never be said to be "free", having been paid for already by those taxpayers. Don't ask us to pay for it again!

This data is as essential to an industrial nation as are roads and any other constructs that enable commerce. It is not there for the benefit of other government agencies or casual students of geography. It is there to enable commerce. Vector spatial data in particular is grist for those economic mills that seek economic advantage by the automated interpretation of geographically coherent data.

That's what it's all about.

From Steven Gawne of Calgary Alberta:

We as citizens of Canada have already paid for these data, the raw material of the knowledge industry. The politicians view cost recovery as an added tax base & yet they often expound upon the necessity for Canadians to become increasingly trained in order to compete in future knowledge-base markets.

In an evolving data management world the economic vitality of the country depends upon both accurate data and accurate interpretation by trained analysts. If we are to compete we must have access to at least the same levels of data quality as is freely available in the USA. I am trying to conduct independent research and find the expense of base data prohibiting. It is very frustrating to be able view and download American data free of charges.

From Don Taylor of Neatline Technologies Inc. in Lethbridge, Alberta:

Governments have financed and supported of other types of infrastructure (roads, canals, telecommunications, etc.) that are required to maintain our standard living. For some reason the digital spatial infrastructure has been perceived differently and as a result has been over-priced. This has created a significant deterent to creating real value - adoption of spatial technology by organizations, new products and more effective decisions.

From Trevor Wiens of practical intelligence in Edmonton, Alberta:

The charging of Canadians for data that they've already paid for with their tax dollars is offensive. The charging of non-Canadians private, corporate or government would be complete waste of resources and money as more money would be spent in stupid meetings, setting up cost recovery plans and the creation of [silly] documentation to cook the books and show a cost recovery then would ever be brought in. Therefore the simplest and best solution is make the data freely available and then use a license that prevents the resale of the data.

If a company wishes to resell value added information they should be required to inform their clients of the free availability of the source information prior to sale. This would prevent reselling freely available data that had been enhanced in name only. This would also encourage companies from changing their focus to the sale of services not data and this would in my mind greatly enhance the development of the GIS industry in Canada.

BTW, it is nice to see someone trying to take action on this issue. In Alberta the government has been making very poor quality data available for very high prices for a long time and has been very resistant to change on this issue. The provision of government generated GIS data to the general public for free would be a very positive step to empowering the public with the tools they need to be involved in many of the important decisions that effect them on a daily basis.

From Brian Crisall VE6BCA Amateur Radio (hobbyist) of Edmonton, Alberta:

As a Amateur radio operator, we use digital maps with our Automatic Position Reporting System. We would like to use this new resource to enhance our public service capabilities. It is almost impossible, or cost prohibitive, to acquire decent local and regional digital maps from a Canadian source. It is pretty sad that we are forced to use data from the United States so we can view maps of our own country.

From James Ewen, of Sherwood Park, Alberta:

I find the Canadian government pricing policy on geospatial data to be prohibitive to any type of amateur or other non-profit experimentation. Our American counterparts have free access to geospatial data of their own country, but the same information in Canada would appear to be considered 'classified information'.

From Barry Sloan, Amateur Radio VE6SBS of Sherwood Park, Alberta:

The cost of this data is preventing the amateur radio community from implimenting useful APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System) applications in Canada. These applications are useful to fulfil public service functions such as search and rescue. Also hampered is the ability to be able to utilize this data for properly determining radio propagation paths essential to establishing reliable radio linking systems that are required for communications during emergencys and disasters.

From Robin Barnes, Mapping Technologist with the Alberta Land & Forest Service:

It is extremely frustrating working with the Government of Alberta when other Departments (or sometimes even Services within a Department) require geospatial data (or other data and services)and we charge each other's Dept. It seems ridiculous. The amount of administration cost to perform each transaction probably far exceeds the cost savings from charging for the data.

Comments > Alberta