Esri to Allow Public Look at Gov’t Mapping Data

The mapping software heavyweight will let government agencies make map data open to the public.

by / February 11, 2014
At the 2013 Esri International User Conference in San Diego, Calif., an attendee looks at screens of imagery. Esri's decision to allow users to make the ArcGIS platform public will allow the public to evaluate data governmental agencies use to make decisions. Flickr/Kris Krug

ArcGIS is one of the most popular mapping platforms in the world. And for governmental organizations that regulate and monitor area specific sites, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ArcGIS is a dominant platform, as it incorporates Microsoft Office applications like Excel.



Now the maker of ArcGIS, software maker Esri, will allow users to make the platform public, which includes granting public access to Esri’s cloud servers. The advantage to this decision according to Esri is that it will allow the public to evaluate data governmental agencies use to make decisions.


According to a report on, the first agency to utilize the new public access will be the U.S. EPA, which will open up mapping files to public inspection.


"[Government groups] don't make most of their own data," Esri CTO Andrew Turner told Readwrite. "Instead, they work with orgs to gather data. Now, they can spin an open data site up, customize it, choose a URL, and include data that they want to, including from Maryland and other organizations."


Esri is reported to have begun kicking the idea of opening up the data and cloud access several years ago, when the California-based company acquired open-source software company GeoIQ in 2012.

And in the Esri blog, Turner wrote on Feb. 4 that the software the company is publishing as open-source cuts across many domains – not just the Web. "There are mobile phone libraries and applications, desktop extensions, big data analytics tools," he wrote, "and of course many Web application templates in ActionScript, Java and JavaScript.

“Now, everyone starting to deploy ArcGIS can now deploy an open data site," Turner told Readwrite.

Currently there are nearly 50 repositories at, but the company is getting ready to release many more, Turner wrote. "As we get close to and at the Esri International Developer Summit, you will likely be surprised by some of the tools we will be releasing."

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