Over in the UK, a campaign started by the Guardian, “Free our data“, argues that government-funded data, such as the geographic data collected by the UK’s Ordnance Survey, should be made available to tax payers at no additional cost, as they have already paid for it. Perhaps. Perhaps not, in that paying for usage defrays costs that would otherwise raise the tax burden for everyone. But this post is not about the merits of the argument, it is about this sentence in the manifesto:
It cannot make any sense that Google, an American organisation, is presently more popular with people aiming to create new map applications.
I want to know:
- What difference does it make what nationality Google is? Would it have been okay if Google had been British?
- Why can it not make any sense that Google is “presently more popular”? Google is a company. Companies tend to be acutely aware of market opportunities and rush to exploit them — while governments do not, on the whole. Remember the origins of France’s Géoportail virtual globe? Said project leader Patrick Leboeuf: “It was the arrival of Google Earth that spurred us, by showing how much the public wanted this kind of information.”
- If Google were to get data for free, eiher as a result of the “Free our data” campaign or because enlightened local city councils decide there is a major silver lining for local businesses, wouldn’t Google Earth become even more popular, not less?