Monthly Archives: June 2013

Two Incidents One Outcome – I will Soldier On.

My main intention of starting my own Malaysia GIS blog is to share the right fundamental message about GIS to managers/ decision makers in plain simple language. 6 months into my blogging, two incidents happened last week that will make me more determined to soldier on this journey.

1st incident was related to a comment posted by one of the pro-open source reader, accusing me a hypocrite for not giving out Esri software and data for free. Beside mistakenly thought I’m the owner of Esri Inc that has the authority to give away free software and data, the reader also get his facts wrong:-

  • First of all, open source doesn’t means free software and free software doesn’t means open source.
  • Secondly, similar to commercial open source enterprise, Esri too applies hybrid dual-license business model, where there are certain software that are free and some are fee based (even fee based software is heavily subsidized for educational and home use).
  • Thirdly, Esri does purchased large amount of imagery data from commercial sources and make the imagery available for free (can be accessed from ArcGIS Online, Desktop, Server, Mobile).
  • Fourthly, I’ve no idea where he gets the information from but 1 thing for sure it is absolutely not true and rubbish that Esri software is priced 4x more expensive than US pricing. Probably the reader has forgotten to apply the currency conversion rate (US$1 = RM3.254 as per forex rate dated June 23, 2013)

He ended his comment by chanting “Hidup Open source” or “Hail or long live open source”. Anyhow, I categorically replied the comments and invited him for a meet up to clarify my point. Of course, you might have guessed it, he never replies anymore! You can read his comment and my full reply here.

2nd Incident is more heartening. I received a phone call from a guy introduced himself as political aide for a Member of Parliament in Malaysia (MP). According to him, he came across my blog and would like to discuss about potentially using GIS for the Yang Berhormat or YB (acronym for MP in Malaysia). I guess he might have read my recent post about election and GIS for Politician. We met up and I briefed him about the vast possibility of using GIS to improve citizen engagement, crowd sourcing information from public, planning, scenario analysis, public interfacing and supporting transparent governance.

Both incidents convinced me about much need to be done to promote GIS awareness in our society. In the 1st incident, ignorance and naiveness can be dangerous for GIS community. Whereas in the 2nd incident, we are not equipping our legislator and policy makers with the right tools to make the best decision.

I’m a fortunate few Malaysian that have the opportunity working on large multi-national GIS projects around the world and have experiences working on multiple GIS software platform in my career. Given the right platform, I would love to share my experience and contribute back to society. Yes, I’m working for Esri Malaysia, but I’m truthfully convinced this is the right solution for my customers and my beloved country.

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Data Custodian vs. Data Owner

In my upbringing, I was taught that giving is more blessed than receiving. If you were in the position of giving, it means you have the ability to share out the abundance with others, and your generosity will bring joys to those in need.

In our society, we can be more progressive and productive if we practiced knowledge sharing and helping each other. There are many kind users that sacrifice their free time to help provide answers and solutions in many discussion forums, blogs or user groups. We salute them. However, when come to GIS data, most organizations/users are less generous in sharing. While acknowledge concerns about security and data secrecy, on the other hand, I do strongly convinced most prefer to use this as easy excuses. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ignoring the facts there are certain data that is sensitive and secretive, but on the other hand, there must be other data that’s not so secretive that can be shared out to general public.

Take local authority or city council as an example. While it might be sensitive to publish property ownership or property transaction information, but I don’t see why recreational facility, parking facility, land use zoning map and etc can’t be made public.

How about street map of the local council? Point of Interest (POI), local attractions, public amenities, schools and etc? Are these sensitive data as well?

I know what will be the response from cynics – isn’t it we’ve displayed them on our website? Or isn’t it we’ve published the addresses on our website?

Oh please! Can you share it out as a web service or map service or other form of spatial data instead of JPEG and textual data?

Probably PEMANDU and MAMPU can do our nation a favour, make data sharing/publishing to general public as one of the KPI (Key Performance Indicator) in Government Transformation Program (GTP). Agencies that shared out the most data should be given more budget allocation due to their transparency and accountability to the people. Bear in mind, all GIS data collected and maintained in government agencies belong to the tax payers. Government agencies are merely the data custodians that should facilitate the sharing or usability of these data instead of keeping them away from the public (real data owner).