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This page is part of the Proceedings of Wikimania 2005, Frankfurt, Germany.

Workshop - Summarizing Activities around Open Geospatial Data projects[edit]

  • Leader(s): Arnulf Christl
  • License: {{{license}}}
  • Language: English
  • Slides: {{{slides}}}

About the leader(s): Arnulf Christl was born in 1970 and after stays in Indonesia and Uruguay settled down in Germany. After his job training as carpenter he started studying geography at the Phillipps University of Marburg (subsidiaries informatics and media studies) in 1991. There he attended his first GIS course, worked as system administrator. In 1995 he continued his studies at the University of Bonn, ExSe Group of the geography department. In the next years Arnulf worked as freelance GIS consultant for SIEMENS Business Services in Singapore, Taipeh, Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.

In 1998 he founded CCGIS. Since then he focused on developing GIS client frameworks mainly for public administrations and utility companies. The roots of the Mapbender Framework go back 5 years, first developed as proprietary software and published as Free Software under the GPL in 2003. In 2004 Mapbender version 2.0 was released, in April 2005 an international Mapbender user meeting was organzied.

Switching from proprietary to Free Software development and subsequent changes in the business model caused a thourough reorganization of CCGIS keeping Arnulf busy. He now shares his experiences and conducts courses on Free Software business models.

In the little free time that is left you will find him running around with a GPS tied to his neck taking tracks and waypoints. They are added to Free spatial data projects that will eventually converge and cover the whole earth. To achieve this it will take the next 10 years depending on how many hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of people join in. This is the basic idea of Free Spatial data which would provide for a very transparent spatial information system. It would obviously also render a great backdrop for any visualization with spatial component in any Wikipedia project which is why Arnulf attends the Wikimania.

Squeeze his brain wherever you meet him regarding the technology behind those spatial data infrastructures because he has not been doing anything else for the past ten years.

Abstract: {{{abstract}}}


Web technology has fostered development of Free Software in many areas, one of them regarding Geographic Information Systems. Traditional GIS has evolved into web based (Geo)Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI or GDI). These service architectures provide an ideal platform for collaborative geospatial data collection and creation - something that has been missing in Wikipedia for a long time.


Currently there are at least three core areas of interest:

  1. Wiki style creation of geospatial data
  2. Making use of and link into Free (and Open and freely accessable) geospatial data projects
  3. Summary of fellow projects under way

The first type focuses on the data and software which is being created and developed by *Open* or *Free* collaborative projects outside of Wikipedia and how to make use of or integrate them.

The second topic gives an overview of other existing geospatial data pools and projects around the world and possibilities of how to tap into them. This can be a great source for backdrop maps and basis to digitize on. These are not always necessarily Free (as in GNU/FDL) but may be only freely accessible as in free beer. Geospatial data can be very heavy on hard- and software in terms of processing time, amounts of storage and cost of creation (e.g. satellite images).

The third part will give a short insight on a few selected projects centered around Free and open spatial data. This will have to be brief and not go into any details but maybe this could be the start of a directory to find oneself about in this scene a little better as they still seem to be fairly disconnected.


As this frequently gets mixed up (and doesn't make too much sense to non-Geographers or non-Surveyors) a simple definition: "large scale" translates into "many deatails" "small scale" translates into "more of an overview"

Copyright and -left issues[edit]

Although this will be a very large and controversial issue, ways have to be found on how to integrate and cooperate with non-Free data providers regarding copyrights and policies. One of the largest spatial data providers are the public administrations. They currently have a hard time finding out how to cope with Wikipedia on one hand and unfree/closed data providers on the other. Don't forget about politics, currently it is amazing how thoroughly ignorant politics is on the world wide availability of high precision spatial data.

The sheer amount of data that has been collected over the past thirty years by public administrations with public money is overwhelming - nonetheless a lot of this data is not freely accessible. A lot of it will also never be Free in the GNU/FDL sense, if only for data protection. Still it must be possible for the citizen to also participate in the process of spatial planning and management, so that to a certain degree the systems will have to open up.

This presentation will probably only (for lack of time) be able to focus on the technological aspects which are fairly easily manageable using existing open standards and Free Software technology. Just for the fun of it we will imagine the operation of a government spatial data Wiki...

Try out for yourself[edit]

By summer the Geo-Consortium will have an Open and Free portal interface for collaborative geospatial data management up and running. Some first impressions can be found on the Mapbender Free Software homepage: http://www.mapbender.org

The beta of the portal is now running on http://wms1.ccgis.de/mapbender/ for lack of a real server and better (pretty) URL. All data committed there will be tranferred and not be lost once the portal moves to its final destination. The service is Free and will stay Free.

It might be interesting for people to play around with maps hands-on during the Wikimania conference. We will rig up a notebook and projector so that people can actually hack into the spatial data infrastructure Online.

Further Information[edit]

Further information on the technical background has been put together on Meta. Find the details her: http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimaps

The discussion page features a proposal of how to connect Wikipedia to the worldwide spatial data infrastructure. http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:Wikimaps

Looking through it now there are some passages that need rewording. Lets collect all that we can get at the Wikimania and extend this sections afterwards. If you have any additional suggestions or questions to discuss at the Wikimania just add it here or to the discussion page.


The original presentation slides are available for download in ODP and PDF format at: