Open Geographic Information | SmartData Collective
"Many government agencies use geographic information systems (GIS), software which allows them to collect, store, analyze and visualize geographic information. For example, cities deploy crime maps to improve public safety, states use land use data for planning, and the U.S. National Park Service conducts research and conservation efforts using GIS. The de facto standard GIS software for many agencies is ArcGIS, which, along with its predecessors, was for decades the preeminent enterprise-scale computer mapping solution. ArcGIS, the flagship product of mapping software firm Esri, stores data in proprietary file formats, meaning that users must have a copy of ArcGIS to use data produced by the program. ArcGIS competes with free, open-source alternatives, including QGIS, which have been embraced by the open data community. Government agencies that want to publish their data in a form usable on all systems have needed to convert from ArcGIS formats, sometimes in large volumes. However, this can be a labor-intensive process, and agencies may lack the resources or expertise to switch to alternative systems that can easily publish open data. Recently, however, Esri has announced changes to ArcGIS that will allow government users to easily organize, host, and release geographic data openly. Esri’s new initiative, which will go live with a new version of ArcGIS slated for release in March 2014, enables any data in ArcGIS to be published openly ..."