Open geospatial data: A comparison of data cultures in local government

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Public geospatial data (geodata) is created at all levels of government, including federal, state, and local (county and municipal). Local governments, in particular, are critical sources of geodata because they produce foundational datasets, such as parcels, road centerlines, address points, land use, and elevation. These datasets are sought after by other public agencies for aggregation into state and national frameworks, by researchers for analysis, and by cartographers to serve as base map layers. Despite the importance of this data, policies about whether it is free and open to the public vary from place to place. As a result, some regions offer hundreds of free and open datasets to the public, while their neighbors may have zero, preferring to restrict them due to privacy, economic, or legal concerns.

Minnesota relies on an approach that allows counties to choose for themselves if their geodata is free and open. By contrast, its neighboring state of Wisconsin has passed legislation requiring that specific foundational geospatial datasets created by counties must be freely available to the public. This paper compares the implications and outcomes of these diverging data cultures.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalIASSIST Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 28 2022


  • geospatial data
  • geodata
  • Minnesota
  • GIS
  • local government
  • open data
  • Wisconsin


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