OpenStreetMap

Statistics Canada and OSM building pilot project in Ottawa background.

Posted by Johnwhelan on 8 July 2017 in English (English)

The story actually goes back more than five years when it was realised that some Open Data was more Open than others because of licensing issues. The City of Ottawa gave its bus stops and some other information to Google in GTFS format. Because of the need to announce bus stops for improved accessibility all the bus stops were very accurately re-calibrated. This made the bus stops a very attractive high quality import but since the City of Ottawa’s Open Data license did not align with OSM it couldn’t be done but it provided the motivation to get the licenses sorted out.

The Canadian Treasury Board is responsible for standards and open data within federal government in Canada and they set about consulting with many would be users to come up with the 2.0 license. They have been working with a number of African governments on Open Data licensing by the way.

Once this license was in place Ottawa city council acted to ensure that all users had equal access to their data, ie bus stops, by releasing the data under a similar license and even that took a year or two to do.

Statistics Canada has a very different corporate culture than OSM and very early in the project a meeting / conference call was held with various players including Blake Girardot from HOT, Mojgan Jadidi, who had imported some Stats Canada data into OSM under the new 2.0 license and compared both carefully, and Tracey Lauriault, an Open Data specialist from Carlton University, who identified a building data set that the City of Ottawa owned completely. Other data sets were partially owned by various agencies such as MPAC who normally sold the data. That meeting changed the direction of the Stats Canada project, now it was to be an Open Data import with extra tagging by the public and that meant the local mappers had to both approve the import and be involved. In Ottawa local group of mappers meet up every few weeks, they were very supportive and held a number of meetings to discuss how they could help. In the end it was they who ran the import and handled much of the OSM discussion.

The City of Ottawa new Open Data license wasn’t formally approved for some time into the project. There was lengthy discussion in the Canadian community and with the import mailing list about the import, and eventually the questions about the license were referred to the legal working group who formally approved both the Federal Government 2.0 Open Data license and the City of Ottawa one. Mapbox were very supportive of the project providing a customised version of the iD editor. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/crowdsourcing

It should be noted that normally handling both French and English or bilingualism can be a major problem for Canadian Federal Government departments. In this case OSM handles multiple languages very well both on the input side and on the display side, locally in Ottawa street names can be displayed in English or French and bilingualism was not a problem. Also the range of tools for entering data such as iD, JOSM, etc. meant the project was not committed to using one method of data entry.

One very significant part of the project was the use of R (R.org), an Open Data statistical program, to analyse the data and this should provide a low cost tool for other parts of the world although as always training has its own costs.

Comment from cruzlorenzo on 10 July 2017 at 16:02

Wow, great post)

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Comment from bgirardot on 14 July 2017 at 13:17

Thank you for writing this up John!

It has been really impressive to see the folks at Statistics Canada engage with both the local OSM community in Ottawa and the larger OSM community. It has had its ups and downs, but StatCan really shows forward thinking and leadership in how they have engaged with everyone and approached OpenStreetMap.

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Comment from mikelmaron on 16 July 2017 at 20:05

great history and context John, thanks for writing this up

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