Comments > International

This comment from Bruce Mackenzie, of Victoria, B.C:

In fall 1997, I volunteered to go to Boliva as a Volunteer Adviser for Canadian Executive Service Organization. I worked for four unpaid weeks with the Bolivian federal government Geological and Mining Service (SerGeoMin).

Mapping geological reserves and claims is a central part of SerGeoMin's mandate. For that, they need accurate base mapping. Well, it happens that the World Bank has funded the Bolivian Military Geographic Institute (IGM) to do topographic mapping of large parts of the country. This was proceeding well, and the IGM had digital files in IGDS format which suited SerGeoMin's needs.

However, 'cost recovery' was also part of the mandate. This meant that that IGM sold the digital files for several hundred US$ per mapsheet, but sold paper copies for a few dollars. SerGeoMin could not afford to buy the digital data, but extremely low labour costs in Bolivia made it possible to purchase the paper copies, and then hire technicians to re-digitize them. Of course, this introduced errors, registration problems, and a data management nightmare as several departments were each doing their own digitizing. This was not good use of extremely limited Bolivian government revenues.

It would be easy to dismiss this as a third-world bureaucratic problem, but a similar situation exists in Canada, where :

Jan-Oliver Wagner of Intevation GmbH of Germany and writes: [May 2002]

You should make very clear what the difference between "for free" and "free" is. What we actually want is free data. The main difference is the license (the terms of use).
Actually, it is even not sensible to demand "for free" as it suggests that agencies have to send CD, maintain web- and ftp-servers on their own costs just to distribute the data.
They should charge for distribution at an reasonable niveau, but not restrict further distribution.

A 'free of charge but use-restricted" GI infra-structure will only very slightly improve the situation while a free data infrastructure such as in the US will greatly improve and build a GI industry.

Dan Jacobsen,, in Taiwan writes: [Sept 2001]

That one can see US Govt maps with just a click, but not Canadian ones, is just a plain embarrasment.

Thank goodness for your site... I am refering to it heavily in my same silly argument with the Taiwan government. They are just coming out of the 'military secrets' stage... let's see if they get the information freedom stage right...

Update: [May 2002]

Now we have the "oh, the taxpayer already paid once, and you are just being an information hoarder" stage. Your website should expand to encompass other repressed countries maps too!

Comments > International