Portable Document Format (PDF) was developed by Adobe System in 1993 as a way to share document independent of application software, hardware and operating system. About 20 years later, it is currently one of the most commonly used document formats in data sharing and document dissemination. As the name implies, PDF is meant for document sharing and not data sharing. Unfortunately, you will see many GIS users and agencies in Malaysia are turning the ‘Portable Document Format’ into ‘Portable Data Format’. While PDF does a great job in sharing document, but it is a lousy way to promote data sharing and collaboration.
Take for example sharing of population data by state, district and mukim. Instead of sending Excel table to your colleagues and allowing him/her to start performing analysis on their spread sheet, one has to perform many intermediary steps before the data is usable if it was given in PDF format. Even though it is not a national threats to share population data, and we knew the data recipients will go through hardship of converting them into usable format, but we still see extremely high tendency among government agencies to share their data and allowing it downloadable ‘unfortunately’ in PDF format, instead of spread sheet or simple database format.
When comes to GIS data, this is getting even trickier. GIS professional needs special grade data to make analysis, it needs to have accurate location (coordination system), Identifier (ID), geographic elements(geometry), meaningful textual data (attribute), label (metadata) and etc. with the advancement of technology, there are better way of sharing GIS map data using map service instead of sending your map data via zip file or worst PDF file. I will discuss more about map service as better way of sharing GIS data in my future blog but meanwhile, please be sincere in sharing your data if you are serious in promoting GIS industry in Malaysia.
Finally, to those that justify their acts of sharing GIS data using PDF format in the name of protecting data secrecy. Let’s face the reality, the innovative GIS users out there will still capable of refining the crude PDF into usable data format, eventually (time wise), redundantly (effort wise) and non-productively (resource wise), frustrated-ly (emotion wise), whatever-ly.
Oops, in case that you do not know, know there is software out there that can convert PDF document too. So what secrecy are we trying to protect here ? Malaysia Boleh.