Article InformationEdit

Title: Public Policy and the Geospatial Information Commons

Author(s): Puneet Kishor

Affiliation: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Presented At: STiS 2008

Primary Topic Area: ICT Policy


Online mapping by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others, is doing something remarkable — more a platform than an application, it is allowing users to create communities, and as such, is changing them into participants. This is resulting in a geospatial commons that no one owns and everyone participates in, and unlike Garrett Hardin’s physical commons, there is nothing tragic about this one as information resource is infinite. Advancements in S&T (geographic information science, mapping and photography, desktop computing and graphics power, network speed, and browser capabilities), and cultural and legal innovations (an ethos of sharing and a new breed of legal instruments accommodating such cultural changes), are flourishing in an environment created by the far-reaching public policy decisions made decades ago (network neutrality, end-to-end principles, development of TCP/IP itself).

Public funding of science, academia, NGOs, industry, and citizens are all acting together making possible something that defies conventional legal, economic, and institutional wisdom. This commons is also self-perpetuating, acting as a fertile bed for more innovative entrepreneurial S&T activity — information is, after all, the raw material for more information. But while everything is good with this commons, it is also coming under attack by proprietary interests and short-sighted goals.

My research looks into the role of public policy in making it possible for entrepreneurial activity to flourish in this commons of collaborative geographic knowledge, and the technological, cultural, and legal innovations that it can engender for the continued prosperity of this commons.

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