Johannes Kast presents an open data mapping platform in Cambodia and interviews the executive director
Open Development Cambodia is a novel, non-commercial open data platform designed to collect data and make it available, e.g. through interactive maps, in order to address environmental, economic and social issues through the unbiased lens of raw information. They also provide important, up-to-date information on natural ressources, laws & regulations, company profiles and more.
It’s the first of its kind in South East Asia and both the software that is used and the methodology are open source, transparent and freely accessible to everyone. Especially in recent years, Cambodia is undergoing constant, fast-pace changes, so the mapping software provides a useful illustration.
One example of the practical use of the data collected by ODC is to provide transparency for land use in Cambodia, an issue that has spawned international controversy, because of illegal land grabs and evictions.
THY Try, the Executive Director/Editor-in-Chief of Open Development Cambodia, plays an important role in increasing public access to current and historical information about Cambodia’s development trends by compiling freely-available data from a wide range of public sources. He was kind enough to answer some questions for our blog.
Q: What have been the technical challenges in setting up the program, especially it being the first Open Data website in South East Asia? Did you have an inspiration or model?
A: With new idea and conceptual of web map visualization, social media and journalism integration, Open Development Cambodia (ODC) has faced on capacity issue in some part of web mapping coder and learning by doing on free and open software for Geo-informatics available. So far until now, ODC
has developed our own template and data structure as well as taxonomy system to serve what we have in mind.
As we are the first open data in SEA who is working on the web map visualization, which is very new for us: There are many technical challenges including: Limited spatial data visualization tools and obstacle in using. Limited functionalities of the GIS programs that using related to the attribute table and data storing. As ODC is localizing its website, most of the challenge facing is not supporting with Khmer Unicode. The programs and scripts do not work with Khmer texts. Loading too large size of data related to Spatial data and Raster data and Management dataset.
Q: How do you collect your data? What are your key sources? Is data difficult to obtain?
A: ODC collects data based on what data and information available on “public domain” which the key sources including (1) Royal Gazettes, (2) official websites of governmental institutions, (3) published reports from government, (4) Developers/Companies website, (5) Media release (news/press releases), (6) Published reports from NGOs, and (7) Academic research reports and NGOs. ODC acknowledges that data and information in public domain are difficult to obtain as sometimes some data has strong restriction of re-distribution and re-produce, most are not up-to-date and in PDF format, etc.
Q: How does the strong and ongoing increase in cell-phones with internet access, especially within the Cambodian population, make itself noticeable?
A: While everyone have smart phone and internet providers in Cambodia have competed each other in serving the lowest price and services for their mobile coverage, people can access internet every time, everywhere at any particular places. In the near feature, new application will develop and build to use by the Cambodian people.
Q: With the ever increasing speed of technological advancement, are you following new trends in ICT that might change how mapping can be improved in the future? Can you already make out innovations that might change how data will be used and interpreted?
A: We have already provided online mapping visualization and graphical visualization for non-location data like forest cover statistic and nowadays we are try to find the way of some particular visualization for timeline mapping and story-telling, map visualization with full function for searching, online friendly interactive map and final near real time events as the hot news.
Q: What specifically do you hope to achieve by making data available openly?
A: We want to see openly that data is available online, easy to access in machine-readable format, and able to be redistributed, shared and published publicly, worldwide without any charges.
Tutorial on the ODC Mapping Kit: