Manx Government helps OpenStreetMap

When I wrote my last post about the difference between Google Maps coverage of the Isle of Man and that of OpenStreetMap, I hadn't realised that the OSM version could have been even better without too much more work.

I discovered it only recently, but two weeks prior to my post, Nick Black had posted to his blog about mapping the Isle of Man as well. Nick had been in touch with the Isle of Man's Department of Local Government and the Environment (DLGE, or DoLGE) to see if OpenStreetMap could benefit from any of the mapping data that the government own the rights to. They responded positively to the request and offered a licence to freely derive information from their 1:100,000 map of the Island for use in the OpenStreetMap project.

In doing this, the Isle of Man Government is one of the few cutting edge (a term I wouldn't normally find myself applying to government) organisations leading the way in contributing its data - even if only a subset - to the world of open geodata.

At a scale of 1cm on the map to 1km on the ground, the geodata is only a very simplified version of that collected by the government, yet it can still help tremendously. As Nick pointed out in his post, the Isle of Man did have a fair number of roads covered on OpenStreetMap already, but the coverage was by no means thorough or complete, which is where the new data can help. It helps fill in gaps where roads had not already existed in the database. It helps in the classification of roads between primary (A-roads), secondary (B-roads) and others and helps with assigning the correct reference numbers (e.g., A1) to the roads. The data also helps with the perhaps more difficult to map features such as plantations, peaks, rivers and reservoirs.

Nick has spent some time tracing from the map, as have I, and the open geodata map of the Isle of Man is starting to be beefed up (switch to the Osmarender layer to see the latest map data, though you'll need to zoom in) to include more roads as well as everything else we can derive from the map.

Due to the scale of the government map being used to derive data from, there will be issues in data quality and accuracy, but it is a great start and gives us a broad base set of data to work from, all of which can be improved over time. And it can be improved by anybody who is willing to help. This is still especially important in the towns and villages of the Island where the mapping will still require a lot of work, partly because generalisation on the 1:100,000 map means that many smaller roads are excluded but also because street name data is still something which needs to be collected in other ways - the best of which is by people on the ground who have knowledge of the area.

I wonder if other governments will step forward and offer a helping hand as well?