Comments > British ColumbiaBritish Columbia

From Alex Marshall of Ashton Mining of Canada, in North Vancouver, BC:

The fees charged for this data cannot hope to recover the cost of acquisition. The current fees act as a barrier to individual Canadians making use of data gathered at their expense.

From Jeff Ardron, of the Living Oceans Society, in Sointula BC : [May 2001]

We are a marine environmental non-governmental Organization (ENGO) that, except for the friendly Conservation Data Centre, has not "officially" received a single a piece of data from the provincial government. The Land Use Coordination Office (LUCO) is the worst offender, not even offering to sell their data. We had to work out an agreement with DFO (who had access to the provincial data) in order to get some. Other data were "leaked" to us. We have no TRIM because of the outrageous costs involved. This lack of data sharing is one of the main reasons why the marine sector of the Central Coast LRMP process was unable to draw lines on a map and thus the process stalled... This was helpful to no one, including the provincial government, who were hosting the process after all!

Jeff Ardron sent a new comment to reflect the changing state of affairs over the past year or so: [May 2002]

We are a BC marine environmental conservation organization. Access to marine data has been a long a drawn out affair. Over the past four years, we have made two Freedom of Information requests to the BC gov't, and one to the Federal gov't for geospatial data. In addition, of course, we have telephoned and emailed countless people. Bit by bit, we have been building our marine geospatial database...

So, for those of you out there, it is possible, but it is also extremely slow and frustrating. There have been a few signs from gov'ts themselves that they are growing tired of this situation... Let's hope so. Still, I doubt we will ever see TRIM freed up. Nor will we ever see Canadian digital bathymetry (DFO gave (yes, gave) that away, and it is now in the hands of a French multinational, NDI, who have little desire to share...

On the positive side, there is a recently formed North Vancouver Island Information Managers group. United we stand... I'd suggest that we should look at creating more of these throughout the province. This would give us a united regional voice to present to various information agencies. It also allows us to share, uh, experiences...

From Jim Alix of the Greater Nanaimo Cycling Coalition:

The GNCC is interested in geo-spatial data through my interest in GIS (I am currently enrolled in the UniGIS program at SFU and I work for the BC Ministry of Transportation and Highways). GIS would be useful in We have approached the City and the Provincial Government concerning use of their GIS data. While the engineering staff agree that getting this kind of data to us (and other volunteer groups) would be a benefit, the potential legal issues seem to be a barrier. Both protection of privacy and copyright issues have been cited, along with the prohibitively high "cost of recovery". (So far, all inquiries have been unofficial, since there is little chance that I would be able to devote the time to any GIS project that would be necessary to come up with something usable except by another GIS technician.)

"Free" or almost free data would not solve all the problems, but it would remove at least one of the blocks to volunteer groups. I am sure that there are several groups in our area that could use the GIS to further their work: the Nanaimo Area Land Trust comes immediately to mind.

From Fran Rose, Government Publications Librarian, McPherson Library, University of Victoria (RETIRED as of June 30, 2001):

Academic and other libraries would certainly like to be able to add good geospatial data to the electronic and print-based government information we provide to students and researchers. Free and inexpensive arrangements for automatic distribution have been the norm for first print and now electronic information and publications from government, so it is difficult to understand why similar affordable agreements have not been implemented for libraries and other non-profit institutions.

From Shawn Cherewick, of Advanced Wireless Technologies, in Langley, BC:
As a Canadian, I must wonder why our government has chosen to charge so much for what we have already paid. Does the government realise the amount of Canadian created geospacial solutions that are not reaching the market? If the government would take it's head out of the bureaucratic hole, and come to the conclusion that by freeing up this data, this particular industry would grow by leaps and bounds.

From John Foster, of Borealis Silviculture Ltd in Clearwater, BC:

This technology should be available to all. The risk of being lost in the forest, or lost in the mountains where there are avalances and so on is real. GPS and GIS will assist in location of geographic features, and route finding.

From David McLean, a GPS and Data Mapping student in Nanaimo, BC:

As a student I find it very frustrating that the only datasets I can work with have to come from a foreign organization. Why can't students (or others), who have no intention on using the material for financial gain be able to do so with out penalty (in the form of outrageous fees). The small amount of Canadian data I have been able to find has been without metadata, therfore virtually useless to me.

From Edward Beggs, a student of the Masters of Environment and Management program at Royal Roads University and GIS courses from ESRI online, from Westbank BC:

From what I know of GIS, there is tremendous potential to improve efficiency in society in many ways and to create new businesses and opportunities. Therfore, free data would allow these efficiencies to be captured (efficient, productive business and government) and generate new tax revenue. Over the longer term, this is likely to more than adequately compensate for the cost government incurs in data acquisition.

From Norman Eldridge, of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, Richmond, BC:

The widespread use of digital map and earth observation data is well behind where it should be throughout Canada. Data produced at the cost of taxpayers should be freely available (at the cost of distribution) to those taxpayers, including corporations. The entire industry will benefit from this approach, stimulating the digital mapping market, value-added products and services, and overall, create more value to the Canadian economy through revenues and business created, rather than by the current attempt at cost recovery by direct charge during distribution of government data sets.

From Donald Thompson of Prince George, B.C.:

Data under the control of governments is sometimes not even for any type of release or sale unless there is particular favouritism shown. Restricted data means a restricted economy for everyone, especially for attracting outside investment.

From Ken Geange of Vancouver:

The Canadian small business sector is being forced into a very detrimental situation. The lack of and price of mapping data are stifling innovation and imagination. The wheels of Canadian industry are grinding away well behind the wheels of the US industry and the gap is getting wider. I hope something is done soon to correct this damaging problem.

From Dave Ransier, of MapData Online Ltd. in Vancouver, BC:

In 1997, contacted Geomatics Canada about reselling their topomaps. I also inquired what their sales were for the previous year. I was shocked when I found out that sales were less then $1 million. The group that was responsible for sales had several employees and I met them at several trade show around North America.

Conclusion: Geomatics Canada spends considerable more implementing "cost recovery" then they receive in revenues from sales.

The absurdity of the situation is that "cost recovery" is more expensive then free distribution.

From Alvin Tye of the Quadra Island Mapping Project in Quathiaski Cove, BC:

We are a non-profit, volunteer operated, community oriented, integrated resource information system with a mandate to map local biophysical resources. The cost of the aquisition of data with a standard and verifiable lineage is a significant constraint on our activities. This affects the way in which we fulfill our mandate. Access to "corporate" agency datasets would allow us to integrate our efforts with those of government and ensure that information requests directed to us are fulfilled with current, complete and accurate data. That, in turn, will assist user groups by preventing the proliferation of costs incurred through duplication of effort in their data collection activities. The direct benefits in increased economic activity at the local and regional level will quickly repay the lost revenue accrued through regressive policies with regard to current pricing.

From Ronald Bolin, an independent consultant in Nanaimo, BC:

Example: Caliper Corporation in the US provides a capable GIS tool coupled with a complete and address linked road network as well as census linked data for the entire US at $350. Try to duplicate this in Canada, even for a single municipality, and calculate the cost. This data can be used for many constructive civic and private purposes by a very wide segment of the population.

From Brian Klinkenberg of the Department of Geography at UBC:

A comparison of the number of data VARs in the US to those in Canada clearly illustrates the 'cost' of selling data in Canada. The cost is also reflected in the lack of GIS companies in Canada. Students find it easier to collect US data for projects than they do Canadian data, so a US-centered viewpoint inevitably results.

This personal opinion from Frank Mayhood of the City of Kamloops: Frank Mayhood, Information Technology Manager, City of Kamloops:

As with any non-trival issue, there are many sides to the question of the price that should be charged for geographic data. As the economy of the world shifts more and more to an "information" rather than commodity basis the valuation and protection of intellectual property rights becomes more and more important to the smooth functioning of the economy. In my opinion, the primary purpose of government is to provide an environment that makes trading safe and fair for all participants. That is why we have laws that regulate our behavior, and govenments to enforce them.

The blanket statement that spatial data should be provided free by governments is far too broad for me to accept. Should the government provide the pet food company with a map of all the dog owners in the city? Should the RCMP post on the Internet the map of last months burgleries? Reasonable restrictions on what should be available to whom must be maintained.

Here at the City we chose to contract out the sale, distribution and marketing of geographic data and products. This was done not to create barriers to the ligitamate use of our data, but rather to promote its use by exploiting the entreprenurial spirit. What we found was that our staff was being constantly interupted by requests for data and products derived from the data. We could not justify increasing staff to satisfy the demand. Much of the economic value that can be derived from the data requires analysis, consulting, and manipulation that we were ill equiped to perform. Also, our inability to react to demands and a total lack of knowledge on the publics part concerning what data was available, ment that some decisions that could/should have made use of the information did not. This was not good for the community. We decided that the private sector was better equiped, and better motivated, to make the advertising, promotion, and marketing decisions regarding the use and potential use of our geographic data (see ). The City takes a small royalty which helps fund the maintenance of the data sets.

In conclusion, it is sometimes better to charge for something than to give it away. Free things tend not to get the respect that they may deserve.

From Doug Cates, an independent consultant in Vancouver:

The government should not be in the data collection business, that is, they should not collect data that they don't need themselves. They should not justify the cost of the data collection based on future cost recovery from resale to the public. However, once the data has been collected for government use, it should be available to the Canadian public at no cost, as the data has been collected and paid for with Canadian public funds. Exceptions should apply where the data is deemed sensitive or potentially harmful to release.

From John Harrop, in Mineral Exploration / Computer Geology:

Other government agencies should look at the example of the BCGS in the BC Min of Mines and Energy. In particular examine the Map Place, and the increasing number of technical products provided at cost in digital form, or by Internet with no charge. The USGS has gone even further in providing similar material.
Comments > British Columbia