By Jonah Adkins, GISP
Over the last few years the high availability of map and geo-data services with the help of mobile technology has sparked the “geo-boom”; any and all data can be tied to location using a variety of technologies, therefore making data management more important than ever.
GIS professionals have long been familiar with data management practices. The landfills are full of floppy disks, CD’s, and DVDs of Coverages, shapefiles, and geodatabases shared between localities, bought from vendors, or supplied by software companies. Growing up in this industry, there was a two-sided badge you got to wear as a GIS professional. The front side was a badge of honor you got for skills in “Data-Hoarding”; “How big is your database?” “Where did you get that dataset?” “You have so much data you had to buy a server!!!!” The other side of that badge said Sheriff in big letters, “Why do you need MY data?”, “It’s going to cost you”, “Can I get that formal request in triplicate?” This badge was also a curse, because all GIS pro’s had it, so good luck getting some data from a suspicious colleague. Lost hours of phone calls with protective data mothers, answering a litany of questions, and paperwork, all to show the buildings of an adjoining county on the map. Our niche community of GIS technologists has ballooned into a billion dollar a year industry with a bevy of new catchphrases like “big data” and “location analytics”. The need for your two gigabyte geodatabase is dwindling in favor of “point me to your map service”.
To navigate the through the “geo-boom”, GIS professionals must be adaptive to a dizzying array of technologies, making managing your data so important. See the ‘your’ underlined in that sentence? Being an authoritative data source comes with responsibility. Your data is worth the time and effort to ensure it has proper formatting, free of errors, and is the reflection of your business. Can it be considered ‘authoritative’ if it doesn’t have those attributes? To curb the old “data-hoarding” habits, leave data that isn’t yours to the professionals, the ones who own it. By taking the time to research who the authoritative source for a needed data set, you can prevent costly duplication and replication of data. Why spend resources on building tile caches and storage if the authoritative source already has, and if not start a dialogue with them, chances are you are not the only one who needs it. There are countless cost effective options to make authoritative data available. While healthy protectiveness of your data is honorable, that Sheriffs badge you wear is starting to rust. You are sorely behind the curve if your data is not or if you do not currently have plans to make your data available to consumers. Potential partnerships, new consumers, and innovation are just a few of the benefits for making your data “open”. You may never fully understand the importance of your data until you make it available for all to use. Understanding that some datasets are sensitive, data security exists, and yes, some businesses would like to profit from their tireless work of creating data, these points still apply and even more so, for pay to play datasets.
Regardless of the data model, storage method, dbms, or software your data is ultimately a reflection of your business. If you cannot successfully manage your business you are doomed to fail, likewise without proper data management values, the usefulness of you data will fade. One final thought - Our niche community of GIS professionals still exists, we have endured countless changes in technology, and we will survive this “geo-boom” like the rest: as a community of professionals dedicated to putting it on a map. (Paper, digital, or otherwise)