Mapitude: Open Data, Open Platforms, Open Communities?


(Open) Data Needs Open Service for Enterprise

I was fortunate to be invited to give a talk at Mapitude. Unsurprisingly I spoke about community mapping, spatial data infrastructures in developing nations and Taarifa. I also touched upon open data and how services and platforms using open data need to be developed. I think that open data is great – for more info watch this TED talk by Tim Berners-Lee – however I believe open data is only the beginning not the end point of data development.

We need platforms and services, which are open and free to use for the vast majority of citizens. This presents opportunities for new business models, while the data should be free at the point of service, the costs of collecting and distribution (if not crowdsourced – I’m not implying crowdsourced is free to produce either) need to be paid by someone/something. Data is just data, it doesn’t help improve sanitation or water access but wrapping it into a service or platform could and should.

Platforms and services like Taarifa, Ushahidi and Open Street Map all are very expensive to run, however need to be free for the public good that they serve. I doubt advertising can fully meet the needs and costs – look at Facebook, whereas I believe over a long term grants and loans are unsustainable. A freeium model could be the way forward, tailored around a service being offered which the platform sits on, which is free up to a limit. Deciding on who to charge for an what is a difficult question and would be needed to considered carefully, with questions around licencing and ‘fairness’ paramount. As such the communities which create the open source software which drives the platforms and services need to be part of any decision that takes place and be at the heart of the community and process.

I’m not saying that open source platforms and services using open data need to make a large profit, this is a charitable enterprise after all, the profit needs to be reinvested to support innovation, be it buying equipment, investing in training or paying for hosting. However open data, open platforms and open services need to make money, which can be reinvested in supporting its community, providing free services to those that deserve and need it, while enforcing payment from those that can pay.

Written and submitted from Mokka City, Dar Es  (-6.8162376,39.2885885)

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Author: Mark Iliffe

Traveller, Programmer, Geospatialist and Motorcyclist

2 thoughts on “Mapitude: Open Data, Open Platforms, Open Communities?”

  1. I’m curious as to what you would envision as a freemium model for OpenStreetMap. Clearly in Ushahidi I could see Crowdmap charging for a certain level or support or usage. Not sure about OSM though, clearly a lot of businesses around OSM are using that type of model but not the project itself.

    1. Businesses like MapQuest, Cloudmade and Geofabrik – to name a few, extensively use OSM, and, I imagine hammer the server quite a bit. These are the good guys, they support OSM through donations, grants and are exemplars for the movement. But they don’t have to give. How can we ensure that people that use our data for profit and put a potential heavy load reciprocate for the benefit of the project, not to it’s detriment. I think having a suggested donation amount based around how much you use the service is a fair way forward. More around communicating to businesses that you should be contributing to the project, if using it. This contribution can be monetary as well as pure map data or helping in the community. Enforcing this for people that overload, I think should be something for the community at-large, I see the merits and pitfalls of it, but remain unsure. What do you think @kate?

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