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11/11/2011
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Feds Offer Data For Do-It-Yourself Maps

Geospatial Platform website makes available data, services, and applications so people can build their own maps.

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The Department of Interior collaborated with other agencies to launch a new online public repository of geospatial data, services, and applications and let people use it to build their own maps.

The move is part of continued efforts by the federal government to make more data available to the public and give them tools for creating new applications from that data as part of a broad transparency initiative.

The Geospatial Platform aims to take the large quantities of geospatial data agencies and partners collect and manage and make it readily accessible and available for easy reuse, the department said.

[ Will the feds keep funding such efforts? Read Obama Orders More Technology Cuts. ]

Via the website, people can use the data, combine it with their own, and create their own maps of interest, as well as collaborate on maps in both public and private groups of people with shared interests. People also can share their maps with others through Web browsers and mobile devices. Moreover, no additional software is needed for people to create and share maps, according to the department.

Information available on the platform includes environmental clean-up data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and coastal environment and historic hurricane data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

One map people could create using this data, for instance, is one that can assess hurricane vulnerability in coastal areas by combining NOAA data with Interior's topographical maps, the department said.

A partnership between multiple agencies made the Geospatial Platform possible. In addition to Interior, other agencies that form the Federal Geographic Data Committee--including the EPA, NOAA, and representatives from the Executive Office of the President--coordinated the development of the site.

The site is a good example of the cross-agency effort of the Obama administration to increase access to data and provide online tools to make this data more relevant both to other agencies and the general public, said EPA CIO Malcolm Jackson in a statement.

"Geospatial Platform opens the door to collaboration around maps and the government's geospatial information in new and very exciting ways," he said.

Another example of this cross-agency effort--the federal online data repository Data.gov--also has evolved merely from providing datasets that people can browse to providing APIs and tools for them to reuse that data, acting as a cloud platform for new applications.

People also can create maps to better visualize data available on Data.gov, and the Geospatial Platform will integrate with that site so info from it will be available on Data.gov as well, according to the department.

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