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).


4 thoughts on “Data Custodian vs. Data Owner

  1. Ramli Wan

    Esri should start by giving free data and software then kalau you fikir ” that giving is more blessed than receiving”. Atau esri malaysia boleh tidak over charge cukup tidak payar bagi free. Di Malaysia kami bayar hingga empat kali harga software esri di us. Don’t full us with your hypocritical comments lah. Go give free and be blessed.
    Hidup Opensource !

    1. Lai, Chee Siew Post author

      Hello En. Ramli,

      First of all, thank you for reading my blog. In responding to your comment, I would like to provide the following facts :-

      1. Please do not mixed up Open Source software and Free software. Not all open source software are free. In fact commercial open-source software firms normally apply dual-license business modal (free and commercial license), as demonstrated by Ingres, MySQL and others.

      2. Similarly, Esri also practice dual-license business modal and among the free software from Esri family are ArcGIS Online (personal edition), ArcGIS Explorer Online, ArcGIS Explorer Desktop, ArcGIS for AutoCAD, ArcGIS Runtime SDK for Android, ArcGIS Runtime SDK for iOS, ArcGIS Runtime SDK for Windows Phone. For full list of free software from Esri, please visit

      3. Esri also has open source products such as ArcGIS Editor for OpenStreetMap, ArcGIS Viewer for Flex, Geoportal Server. By the way, real definition of open source software is computer software with its source code made available to anyone and for any purpose, not free vs. commercial. For full list of Open source software from Esri, please visit

      4. Regarding free data, FYI Esri does provide large amount of free data – including imagery, ocean basemap, national geography map, open street map, etc. Esri is buying high resolution imagery from commercial providers and make them available for our users for free. Please read

      5. Regarding your comment about Esri software price is 4 times more expensive in Malaysia than in US. I hope you check your fact and source before making any wild and baseless statement. Esri software around the world are categorized by commercial, education and personal use. The same software will be priced differently for commercial, educational and personal (home use) purpose. This is Esri’s global practice and the price is monitored closely from Esri HQ in US.

      I’m available for meet up and happy to provide more explanations if you require more clarification. Once again, thanks for your comment and all the best in your open source journey.


    Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage? My website is in the very same niche as yours and my users would certainly benefit from a lot of the information you present here. Please let me know if this alright with you. Appreciate it!

  3. Pingback: Two incidents One Outcome – I will Soldier On. | Simply MY GIS - GIS from Business Perspective

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