This report is based on a six-month study of the use of volunteered geographic information (VGI) by government. It focuses on government use of information relating to a location, which was produced through what is known as “crowdsourcing”, the process of obtaining information from many contributors amongst the general public, regardless of their background and skill level. The aim of this report is to provide a guide for the successful implementation of VGI in government.
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The report draws on the review of existing literature and examination of 29 case studies from different geographic and thematic contexts to identify common themes and issues. The full case study details are included at the end of the report.
The findings are that:
- There are some established cases of close collaboration between government and the public, which range from land management and biodiversity monitoring to disaster response. These examples demonstrate that successful interaction is possible under certain conditions.
- Many of the lessons from the early implementation of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in government hold for VGI projects and can be used to ensure their successful implementation.
- Where governmental data is lacking, the need for suitable data sets can lead to the initiation of VGI projects.
- Technical issues are not insurmountable so these are not the limiting factor in VGI adoption by government.
- Organizational practices, regulations and legal issues such as license conditions are much more likely to restrict VGI projects.
- The acceptance and use of VGI will be influenced by individual, organizational, business model, technical and conceptual factors.
Specifically, the most significant issues that need to be considered from the start of any VGI project are:
- How the data collected will contribute to government process and the organizational issues that this entails.
- The ways traditional GIS practices and concerns over organizational change might limit the adoption of VGI by government.
- Methods to overcome inherent coverage, temporal and participation biases, which influence data quality.
- Funding continuation and sustainability beyond often short-term initial projects.
- Maintaining user participation.
- Licensing and other Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs).
- Identifying clear responsibilities and lines of communication for stakeholders.
Creating clear reporting channels for participants.