Mayor Robredo and Naga City GIS, pioneers in open source and open geographic data

The recent of news of DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo’s death is a big blow to my country’s efforts towards government reform and transparency. Sec. Robredo was well known as the city mayor who transformed Naga City to become one of the “Most Improved Cities in Asia”.

Very few people knew Mayor Robredo and the Naga City GIS unit as pioneers in the field of open source and open geographic data in the Philippines. I didn’t personally met Mayor Robredo but his work towards open source and open data is another prime example of his legacy to using technology to improve local governance.

Some of his pioneering initiatives were:

Adopting open source geospatial technologies. Naga City GIS was one of the first local government in the Philippines who used MapServer and OpenLayers (including Google Earth/Maps) as a medium for publishing geographic data.

Adopting open standards. They are also one of the first to use OGC standard protocols such as WMS and WFS. Back then, the standards were at its infancy, but Naga City GIS was at the forefront of adopting what will become the de-facto data exchange format for geographic information in the web.

Naga City GIS Wiki (via waybackmachine)

Open and public access to data. Not only did they adopt open standards, in promoting public access and wider use of government information, they even allow public downloads to all geographic data managed by the city government. Anybody can download geographic data as Shapefile or GML. All data are under the public domain which allowed us to import the data into OpenStreetMap.

Naga City in OpenStreetMap.

Now, open source and open geospatial data is gaining popularity in the country particularly in local government, disaster/humanitarian mapping and volunteer generated information. Mayor Robredo and the Naga City GIS unit pioneered in adopting these technologies paving the way to other local government units to adopt a similar approach.

During the import process of Naga City data to OpenStreetmap, I asked Senen Ebio (one of the technical lead of Naga City GIS unit) as to why did they released their data in the public domain at a time when most local government units wouldn’t even think of doing so. His response was:

Naga City has always been generous with regards to GIS technology.
– Other LGU staff(s) (a significant number) were trained by the Naga EDP staff in GIS
– A lot of undergrad and grad students both local and non-local were always requesting and given digital data for their studies/thesis.
– Naga City paper maps are always available upon request, you just have to pay for the printing cost. We even have an ordinance (if i am not mistaken) mandating how much a particular map would cost.

We were always trying to find solutions on how to publish Naga maps in the web … Since the shapefiles were already in the server, why not publish it for everyone to use?

Perhaps the exact response if Mayor Robredo was asked the same question.

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