GeoBase is a critical component of the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI) so any proposed changes need to be measured carefully.
For those who aren’t familiar with GeoBase, it’s a common, up-to-date and maintained base of quality foundational geospatial data for all of Canada. It’s a federal, provincial and territorial government initiative overseen by the Canadian Council on Geomatics (CCOG). Through the GeoBase portal, users can download geospatial data at no cost and with unrestricted data use. It currently contains a relatively comprehensive set of data layers including: administrative boundaries, digital elevation data, geodetic network data, geographical names, land cover, national road network, national hydro network, national railway network, and satellite imagery.
GeoBase is operated by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and is guided by the CCOG GeoBase Steering Committee. However, like most federal government programs these days, GeoBase is under scrutiny and is in the process of reengineering itself through the GeoBase 2.0 initiative. This initiative is an endeavor in part to redefine the way the GeoBase program works, in order to make data sharing and workflows more efficient and thus keep GeoBase data fresher.
Figure 1: GeoBase is a unique source for authoritative base data for Canada. The GeoBase 2.0 reengineering initiative has the following vision: “High quality geospatial framework data for Canada: collected once, used many times; maintained and/or updated regularly; available without restrictions, under an open data license.”
Given the broad mandate of the GeoBase 2.0 initiative, it’s very difficult to design and make large-scale changes to an existing operational program quickly. Issues such as data licensing, funding, standards, policies, governance and maintenance schedules are difficult issues that don’t lend themselves well to rapid change. However, these issues pale in comparison to the volume of work required to keep the numerous GeoBase data layers current for a huge country like Canada.
GeoBase is a very popular product. Published statistics show that there’s been more than 16.5 million files downloaded from GeoBase over the last 9 years. That’s on average nearly 7,000 file downloads for each working day of the year or nearly 1,000 on average per hour per working day. There are no statistics on who’s downloading these files and what they’re using them for, but clearly, the numbers show a significant-sized user community. In particular, GeoBase data is used by NRCan for producing hardcopy topographic maps and Esri Canada uses some GeoBase data for the Community Map of Canada. Many GIS systems in Canada use GeoBase for the foundational data layers.
It’s incumbent upon the folks who are working on the GeoBase 2.0 reengineering initiative to get it right, so that GeoBase continues to provide timely access to quality, current, national base geospatial data for Canada.