OpenStreetMap

NGA/ US Govt Data Questions, help, random rant, etc

Posted by MapMakinMeyers on 31 January 2014 in English (English)

So for the past several years I have been downloading the GNS Country files (http://earth-info.nga.mil/gns/html/namefiles.htm). Some of the data is great. Most of the data is way off. All in all it is helpful. In the past OSM imported some of this data in countries that were lacking. This is good and bad for different reasons in different countries. So now comes the questions/ rant section of the post.

I recently reached out to them to ask several questions about the data, sources, accuracy, etc. I had to wait over a week to hear a response (after I sent a follow-up e-mail they started to respond). Now I am in the process of waiting again... I asked several questions and have suggested a few locations that are most likely duplicates (so they can clean the data). I am assuming I shouldn't hold my breath in expecting a response. Several years ago I reached out to them about a bunch of junk duplicates in the Dominican Republic - and basically they told me they were not going to fix them because their sources confirmed them (although traveling to the Dominican and having a GPS and geotagged pictures should be more accurate than some commercial company vectorizing paper maps...)... Anyway I was wondering what the OSM community's perspective is on asking governments for data. I know open data plays a huge role in updating OSM (whether it be in imports, confirming data, adding supplemental attributes, etc). In all honesty OSM is better than most commercial datasets, and in most cases it is better than government data. Some governments even have their official maps based on OSM data (which is very cool). But at the end of the day, it is governments that create boundaries, name places, and have this information. It is digital, it does exist, and people/ the public should deserve the right to see it, use it, etc. Trying to communicate this to governments is so difficult - its like hitting your head against a wall to get someone to listen, understand what you are talking about, get a response, and just get through to them. Several years ago I filed several FOIAs to the NGA and numerous governmental agencies about VMAP1. It took over eight months for me to get a NO; you and the public cannot access the data blanket response. So I am about to embark on a journey of asking for data. Filing FOIAs. Basically leaving no resource, contact, agency, etc any wiggle room for a no. I have a pretty good game plan as to how I am going to go about contacting them, following up, following up, and following up. At the end of this I expect many people to tell me no, the government cannot release the data to the public, etc. But I am going to keep asking, changing my question to be more specific, asking in a different way, asking about different data, etc. I will probably go nuts doing this, but it needs to be done. It is a bunch of BS that the general view of the US govt is to have open data (http://www.whitehouse.gov/open) but at the end of the day, governments have so much red tape that you cannot even get a e-mail response (more head banging against the wall)...

So now comes a question if I didn't state it in my rant!... Has anyone done this? Has the OSM community filed any FOIAs or petitions asking government agencies for data? Does anyone want to help, have suggestions, or any input?

Cheers!

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