Tom hammond at IUCN Canada posted the following to the Conservation Commons mailing list today. It describes the measurable impact felt when Canada opened up access to what had previously been fee-based access to standard framework national data sets, and you'll see that the result is impressive.
What I will be more curious to see is what effect this has on the quality of these data once they're being used more by more people in more different applications - more aggressively perhaps - and the Government starts getting specific feedback about inaccuracies, omissions and required updates. A key component of the "Better Data Sooner" mantra is that community-driven feedback is the best driver for custodians' continuous improvement of their data products and services.
Perhaps the Canadians are providing a real-world laboratory in which to test this theory.
" The HYPERLINK http://www.cits.rncan.gc.ca/cit/servlet/CIT/site_id=01&page_id=1-005-002-001.html National Topographic Data Base (NTDB) comprises digital vector data sets that cover the entire Canadian landmass. This product includes thirteen“layers” such as hydrography, hypsography and the road network.
" The NTDB is a complete and uniform product that can be highly useful in a broad range of activities– such as planning, research,conservation work,and private sector development. For example, it can be used for preparing thematic maps and makes it suitable for geographic information system (GIS) applications because the NTDB and its attributes make it possible to use a variety of spatial analysis techniques.
" Downloads of NTDB data during the government fiscal year ending in 2007, when a fee for use policy was still in place, numbered under100,000. A change of policy was enacted during the current fiscal year making the NTDB an open access resource– during which downloads jumpedby a magnitude of 54to well over 5 million."