Am Donnerstag, 07.10.2010, fand auf der InterGEO eine von Prof. Dr.-Ing. Lothar Koppers, Hochschule Anhalt (FH), Dessau-Roßlau, geleitete Podiumsdiskussion unter dem Titel Amtliche Daten vs. OpenStreetMap statt.
Teilnehmer waren Dipl.-Ing. Robert Ludwig, Bayerisches Staatsministerium der Finanzen, Lenkungsgremium GDI-DE, Ernest McCutcheon, DDS Digital Data Services GmbH, InGeoForum e.V sowie Dipl.-Wi.-Ing. Frederik Ramm, Geschäftsführer der Geofabrik GmbH, Karlsruhe, und Mitautor des bereits in dritter Auflage erschienenen Buchs über OpenStreetMap.

Frederik Ramm fasste auf OSM-talk die Ergebnisse aus seiner Sicht zusammen.

There was a session with three talks of 20 minutes and then a combined questions block of another 30 minutes; the whole session was placed at the end of the last day.

The three speakers were Mr Robert Ludwig from the Bavarian ministry of finance (they are the keepers of Bavarian geodata), Mr Ernest McCutcheon of DDS, a large commercial geodata Navteq reseller and provider of other commercial geodata, and myself. The mood was amicable; I think every one of us had some respect for what the others did. Robert Ludwig presented an impressive array of geodata held by the state of Bavaria – stuff that we could never dream of collecting (and lots of stuff that we wouldn’t take even if offered for free, lots of stuff that could never be run in a crowdsourced fashion). They have the kind of geodata that allows farmers to plan which crops to plant where, the have geological data, a precise DGM, and much more. Compared to what they have, OSM is more of a “mass market dataset”. They must be spending an immense amount of manpower on developing and complying with standards, not only between the different federal states in Germany but also internationally. It is important to note that whatever they collect, they usually collect that for the whole state of Bavaria – not only for a few hotspots; and with 70,000 sq km Bavaria is not exactly small. Last not least, their data is often an ingredient in legal disputes of all sorts, so it needs to be “official”. But between the lines you could also hear that Ludwig seemed a bit unhappy that all this data they have was put to relatively little use, and was generating relatively little headlines – obviously (to me) because it was not freely available. He said that they’re already giving full access to their data to schools and he was very open to cooperating with OSM, however it was clear that he was hoping for OSM to settle down a bit and become more reliable/established, ideally use a fixed data model and so on.

After that, I gave a brief introduction into OSM, highlighting how quite a number of government agencies in Germany are now using OSM data and asking the question why (could it be that official data is difficult to get your hands on even if you are the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology – who have recently launched a map displaying broadband availability based on OSM?). I openly acknowledged that OSM has its disadvantages – mainly that we do not offer any quality assurances and that coverage is often deep not broad. In the last talk, McCutcheon provided some in-depth comparisons between commercial data and OSM data (and some government sources too), acknowledging that OSM was often superior to commercial data for leisure uses, but, as expected, lacking basic data in rurual areas. He claimed that roads in OSM were often lacking attribution (I didn’t have a chance to discuss – I assume that for him, attribution would mean a minimum basic set of attributes including stuff like maxspeed because name and highway type are present in the majority of OSM roads). He named the share-alike license as a major drawback, but concluded that any GIS project needs to carefully analyze the needs and then decide which – OSM, commercial, or governmental – set of geodata might be best suited.

In the questions session I told the story of a German fire department who are now using OSM data in addition to their other stuff after they recently were unable to fight a fire that had broken out in a building under a power line and they couldn’t find out the operator of the power line in time. After the fact, they were told that OSM properly had the operator of the power line noted which got them interested. I used that example to make the point that while the government may have all sorts of cool data, even the government doesn’t know where to find it. Robert Ludwig said that they’re working on consolidating all the metadata they have (what with EU projects like INSPIRE etc.) so “in a year or so” nobody should have an excuse not to find the right dataset for the information they’re after; to which McCutcheon replied that finding the right data for people was his core business model and he guessed that it might take a while longer than a year before you can easily find out where to get which data from.

We parted as friends; I’m sure that there will be further cooperation. One of the problems Robert Ludwig had with OSM was that for him and his administration, OSM didn’t have “a face” – he would really like to have one person to talk to and to build relationships with. Consequently, we have decided to make Joachim Kast (who already attended the recent Geodata summit at the Ministry for the Interior) our (German) official contact person for talking to government and administration. We still expect local mappers to take the lead and won’t overrule them but whenever they reach a point where their counterpart wants to talk to someone “higher up” we’ll send in Joachim Kast.

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About fjbehr

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Franz-Josef Behr, Professor of Geoinformatics at Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences ( His specializations include * Internet, Internet GIS * XML, GML, SVG * Data exchange and Interoperability * Visualization * Open Source Solutions * Consulting Member of the DIN working group NA 005-03-03 AA "Arbeitsausschuss Kartographie und Geoinformation" (Sp CEN/TC 287+ISO/TC 211). He is the author of two authoritative books on GIS in German, one is "Strategisches GIS-Management", published by Wichmann Verlag (2004). The second is "Einführung in Geographische Informationssysteme" (1997).

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