Have you ever heard of OpenStreetMap?
It's been a long time since people carried a paper map around with them on their holiday, or when exploring a new city or even find an important address in their own city. Nowadays, more and more people are using online digital maps. However, most users do not know that doing so in specific cases constitutes a breach of data copyright and they should pay to use these data. Why? In most countries geodata, i.e. data relating to geographical information, are not free but belong to the military or other institutions or bodies who have ties to the government.
From a legal standpoint, personal use of Google and other providers is only allowed under certain circumstances. Furthermore, the maps are often not up to date and incomplete, and errors are solved at a snail's pace. Let's not forget that complete maps found online do not come with the data used to map them in the first place.
What is OpenStreetMap?
The OpenStreetMap (OSM) project is part of the Wiki projects. The heart of the project are geodata contained in a database following Wikipedia's format. OSM's goal is to collect geodata, i.e. data on roads, houses, rail tracks, bike trails, rivers, forest and everything else you can see on a map. With these data, they plan to design a digital, free and open world map which can be accessed for free and modified by all interested parties. All this is possible because data is collected personally and not from previously existing maps. That means that the OpenStreetMap community possesses all rights. OSM data is license-free for everyone to use and pass on.
How do you participate?
There are different ways to take part in this project. You can draw the map, develop the project or collect data for the database with the help of GPS devices or aerial views, i.e. mapping. Another way to cooperate is to report errors via the OSM main page.
OpenStreetMap in the world...
Steve Coast founded the OSM project back in 2004. Since then, its users have grown to one million and OpenStreetMap communities have popped up all over the world. These cooperate in collecting and working on geodata on a voluntary basis, as well as developing the software. In this way, they try to stop depending on other providers. The communities host ‘Mapping Parties‘ from time to time. Users select a location and map it, collectively uploading the collected data online. Beside these parties, there also is an annual OpenStreetMap conference, the "State of the Map".
...and in South Tyrol
The South Tyrol OSM community is alive and works closely with the Trentino OSM community. Thanks tothe OpenGisData.eu project of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, together with TIS innovation park and the South Tyrolean municipalities Consortium, another community focusing on Open Data popped up. The OpenGisData.eu project's aim is to make geodata of the province of Bolzano freely accessible, also enabling their use in OpenStreetMap. TIS innovation park organises regular Mappers' meetings. If you're interested in mapping, why not come along?
OpenStreetMap is the largest, free geo database in the world. There are all types of maps, such as hiking, biking, sailing and kayaking maps. There are also numerous ‘specialty' maps that OSM members are working on. These focus on environmental issues and sustainability.
Have you ever heard about Open Data?
Open Data embodies the concept of making data open and accessible. Why? Data produced by public bodies, authorities and institutions are sources of untapped potential just waiting to be found. Imagine if all citizens had transparent access to geodata, traffic data, weather and environmental data, household data, statistics, publications and research findings, protocols, laws, sentences and decrees: only then a sustainable and democratic development can be possible.
So, what are Open Data?
To cut it short, Open Data are freely accessible data. This means that data of all sorts, previously paid for and managed information, would be open and accessible to everyone. Data are uploaded, used freely, modified and once again made accessible on safe platforms from an archive containing all type of information. There are no restrictions whatsoever. These could be geodata, traffic data, publications or research findings, didactic material or media content. Normally these data are accessible to everyone anyway. The only exception are personal data or data which may help identify a person- those remain inaccessible just as always.
Why use Open Data?
Transparency and collaboration equal development: Open Data contribute to the dissemination of useful information. Data and knowledge thus become available to everyone and affect the growth of our wellbeing as well as making the connection of different data volume cheaper. The idea behind Open Data is for data not to be used exclusively anymore: data should be free, accessible and available to everyone. For personal and commercial use, for example, such as the creation of apps. This step towards Open Data translates into an evolution and improvement of the professional profile of programmers and IT technicians. Traditional red tape belongs to the past. Information is passed on, developed and the cycle starts anew. It's a never-ending circle, a process of giving and taking, as well as being an unstoppable force of development. Thanks to Open Data records it has become possible to work on a project, improve it and pass it on to the next person. From here, the cycle starts again: there's no such thing as starting from scratch. This equals saving time and cutting costs relating to resources and their efficient use.
Open Data in the world…
Data are the new digital gold. Recently, various governments decided to publish their Open Data on their websites to ensure it received more attention and to raise awareness amongst the country's citizens. The EU stipulates that Open Data should be accessible and passed on to third parties in a clear, legible and usable format. The publishing of data relating to public administration is seen by the EU as an important contribution to a democratic and knowledgeable society. That's why every year an International Open Data Day is held across the whole EU. Open Data have led to the creation of other ‘open' formats, such as OpenStreetMap, Open Source, Open Government, Open Content, Open Education, etc.
... and in South Tyrol
The Centre for Free Software and Open Technology at TIS innovation park supports projects encompassing Open Data in South Tyrol. International Open Data Day also takes place in South Tyrol, while during the SFScon- Free Software Conference, topics like Free Software and Open Source are presented and discussed.
5 steps to become an Open Street Mapper
Everyone can become an Open Street Mapper and make an important contribution to the improvement and completion of the digital Wiki world map. Curious? Interested in Mapping 101? Just follow these easy, 5 steps and you'll nail it!
Step 1: register online at www.openstreetmap.org
Go online and create an account. Your username is public, so pick one carefully. It will be linked to all your future contributions. Other mappers can contact you with the email address provided. They message you, and the message is then forwarded to your email. Your email won't be visible, sold or forwarded. Pay attention! OpenStreetMap (OSM) gives you the opportunity to register and log in twice, respectively to edit on the main page and on the OSM Wiki page. They are two different log in accounts.
Step 2: Create your profile
You will receive a confirmation email with an activation link as soon as you register. This will prevent anyone from logging in using your email. Time to create your profile and insert your location on the map. Other users can see who is in their area.
Step 3: Select a map layer
Select a map layer when working on the main page of OSM. You can choose between a regular, traffic, MapQuest and bike map layer.
Step 4: Modify the map
At the beginning, it makes sense to select a location you know like the back of your hand and where, maybe, you've already spotted an error. Now, select ‚modify‘ from the drop down menu at the top screen. The following mapping tools are available: Potlach, JOSM, Merkaartor. Attention: data must be provided with characteristics.
Step 5: Upload data
What's next? Just upload the data to the OSM database and hey presto, you're a mapper! To verify if the newly uploaded data has reached the central server, go back to the main page and select ‘map data' and have a look for yourself.