In what I believe is a momentously progressive move for open data in South Africa, NGI [1] is in the process of signing an agreement with OSM [2]. It is a modified version of NGI’s standard ‘Map Data Services Provider’ agreement whereby third parties can distribute NGI data. What this means is that OSM will incorporate all the most recent South African topographical vector data from NGI. NGI data have been free and open for several years but this will make them accessible as never before.

NGI will retain copyright over its data and they will be distributed under OSM’s Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence and in future under the Open Database Licence.

In return, NGI will obtain updates and corrections as generated by OSM’s community of contributors and incorporate them into its data maintenance workflow.

According to Aslam Parker at NGI, this move will:

  • assist NGI in its aim to keep its topographical data as current as possible.
  • make NGI data more accessible and easier to obtain and use.
  • encourage and provide opportunities for under-represented South African areas on OSM to be more thoroughly mapped.

So, keep an eye on the map of your neck of the woods on OSM. Why not get involved in contributing? Anyone can register on OSM and edit the map. Better still, organise school or community mapping parties. Look what the OSM mapping party did at FOSS4G 2008 around Hout Bay and Imizamo Yethu. Being on the map means economic empowerment. Donate a GPS or teach someone to map in an underprivileged area. South Africa could do with a few initiatives like Map Kibera. Kibera outside Nairobi is one of the largest slums in Africa. “Without basic knowledge of the geography of Kibera it is impossible to have an informed discussion on how to improve the lives of residents of Kibera. Check out for details of this project in which young Kiberans have created the first public digital map of Kibera.” (ref).

Well done NGI!

[1] National GeoSpatial Information, formerly the Chief Directorate: Surveys and Mapping.

[2] OpenStreetMap.