The concept of “open data” is not a new one, for years those of us in the GIS community have come accross this term to describe data that has been shared with no copyright restrictions (or other control mechanisms) for people to use and republish as they wish. Within the past two years, Esri has jumped into the open data world by beginning their ArcGIS Open Data initiative. This is a way for Esri customers to disseminate data through a customized ArcGIS Online web portal under an open data license. Organizations that implement ArcGIS Open Data are inherently agreeing to allow their users to download, use, edit and redistribute data for their own purposes. Since RIGIS currently distributes data under and open data distribution policy, the creation of an Open Data site was the next logical step. RIGIS is currently developing an ArcGIS Open Data site with the intention of expanding our user-base so that non-GIS users, desktop software users, and developers can have access to already distributed RIGIS data in a variety of useful open data formats, such as CSV, KML (Google Earth), SHP (Esir, QGIS, etc.) as well as APIs such as GeoJSON and GeoServices.
The RIGIS Open Data site will allow users to access these five different open data formats in a variety of ways. First, users can download the entire dataset (similar to how an entire dataset is downloaded from www.rigis.org). Second, users will be able to filter a dataset by attribute, or by area, and then download a “filtered” version of the data; this is particularly useful for large datasets, such as the E-9-1-1 Sites data. Third, users will be able to access and use data directly in ArcGIS Online web maps; this option may be ideal for non-GIS users interested in working with maps. Fourth, developers will be able to embed a stable link into web applications that will automatically have access to the most recent and up-to-date data available.
One caveat for the RIGIS community to be aware of, is that all data downloaded from the RIGIS Open Data site will be in the WGS 1984 Geographic (WGS84) coordinate system. Although ArcGIS Open Data sites can specify a local projection for all data downloaded, this will not be implemented as there is no way to control which Transformation is applied when data is uploaded or downloaded; as this could result in accuracy errors from data being improperly transformed we decided to eliminate this possibility entirely by using the Esri-recomended WGS84 coordinate system. Since the current RIGIS website (www.rigis.org) will be maintained in tandem with the Open Data site, users will still be able to download SHP files in the Rhode Island State Plane (feet) coordinate system. All data downloaded will also be accompanied by full metadata.
Although the RIGIS Open Data site won’t be ready for it’s public debut until late Spring 2017, I’m very excited to be able to offer RIGIS users another way to use and access RIGIS data. There are some great examples of Open Data sites out there already, so if you want to poke around and see what they’re all about, here are some options: