4th IODC

Blog IODC 2016
Madrid. October 6-7, 2016


Open data and the environment: ideas and thoughts from IODC16

Pablo Rodríguez Bustamante, Geographer, Owner-consultant at GEOCyL. He holds a Geography, Urbanism and Land Management Advanced Studies Diploma (recognized researcher), PhD candidate and Associate Professor at University of Valladolid (Spain). “Mi Ciudad Inteligente” -My Smart City- Project promoter. He collaborates with several web/blogs writing articles and posts about smart cities, smart mobility and geomarketing and has been recognized with several awards for entrepreneurship.

Data have to be: accessible, understandable, usable, must create dialogue and impact to make this planet a safer place for us and the next generations. With these tools, we could help people have more comfortable lives while helping the planet, towards a state of general welfare.

“For example, regarding climate data, it is important to use information to take the best possible decision and analyze the available resources, with the objective of maximizing or replicating in order to verify. The result of these activities is saving lives,” Sergio Estela stated (Spain, founder and chief design officer at Vizzuality).

This information helps people make better decisions. Data are used so that people contribute, create, compare, transmit and respond to their own stories and projects.

“Open data are actually at the core of each dataset; they are available to download for free, and it is an open data portal because we believe information and data to be truly powerful in the hands of people.” Carolyn Tirelly (World Resources Institute, the Global Forest Watch Team).

To organize all these data and this kind of information, a GIS becomes necessary to retrieve information and other datasets; and, as mentioned above, this information is very powerful when people have it. For example, Global Forest Watch Climate is an application that goes beyond monitoring deforestation,  as it also monitors carbon emissions from deforestation and allows visualizing all this information on a GIS.

There are two essential aspects in open data and the environment: first, trying to get the government to open as many geospatial data as possible, and second, analyzing data and developing digital tools so that people can use this information.

We need official data, scientific data and local knowledge to implement a comprehensive open data portal and satisfy people’s needs. In order to elaborate a comprehensive cartographic and statistical report about the configuration of the land, one must start from open data from legal tools that control land and natural resource use. The keyword is implementing; implementing official information about land use through analysis mapping tools and, of course, open data. It is important to develop historic databases of the land because if we look back, at least 20 years ago, we might not get this information about all kinds of matters: minerals gas, fishing resources, environmental impact assessments, toxic and polluting emissions, GMOs, etc. It is not enough for the government agency to publish some official open dataset; it is also necessary that governments and businesses share their data. Each methodology has its own limitations and related problems, but it must try to get to a better place,” as stated by Manuel Manu (Mexico, NGO director, GIS specialist).

To sum up, the environment is a sector in which, unwittingly, there is also a technological transformation based on digitalization and the world of data. For example, according to the European Commission, the collection and publication of environment data has been one of the priority aspects on the subject of open data since 2014.

Exactly, which data can we found published? And what can we do with them? Some examples are:

– Information about the amount of polluting emissions, being able to control them so as not to exceed the maximum allowed, which would be harmful to our health.

– Information on air quality, which allows taking measures and restrictions on pollutants (for example, in Madrid the maximum speed for vehicles is limited in order to reduce emissions).

-Information on pests, so as to control and prevent them.

– Information on pollen levels, very important for allergic people, as this is how they know about the impact level of these agents and when to take medication.

– Current meteorological information, provided in advance in order to be able to carry out statistical analises and obtain a probability of events.

– Other data and public services such as noise pollution, sea conditions, water quality and management, waste management, protected areas and species, etc.

– Also, its knowledge contributes to environmental education, as it reveals the relationship between man and nature and provides this knowledge to all people. All this focuses on an improvement in sustainability.

Finally, we currently have a great amount of data, numbers that, in many cases, only remain like what they are, since we still have to advance in their analysis. Not individually, but interrelating and analyzing them. For that purpose, the standardization of information is primordial.



Featured cover photo by Kalen Emsley

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