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How good is volunteered geographical information? A comparative study of OpenStreetMap and Ordnance Survey datasets

Mordechai Haklay

Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 2010, vol. 37, issue 4, 682-703

Abstract: Within the framework of Web 2.0 mapping applications, the most striking example of a geographical application is the OpenStreetMap (OSM) project. OSM aims to create a free digital map of the world and is implemented through the engagement of participants in a mode similar to software development in Open Source projects. The information is collected by many participants, collated on a central database, and distributed in multiple digital formats through the World Wide Web. This type of information was termed ‘Volunteered Geographical Information’ (VGI) by Goodchild, 2007. However, to date there has been no systematic analysis of the quality of VGI. This study aims to fill this gap by analysing OSM information. The examination focuses on analysis of its quality through a comparison with Ordnance Survey (OS) datasets. The analysis focuses on London and England, since OSM started in London in August 2004 and therefore the study of these geographies provides the best understanding of the achievements and difficulties of VGI. The analysis shows that OSM information can be fairly accurate: on average within about 6 m of the position recorded by the OS, and with approximately 80% overlap of motorway objects between the two datasets. In the space of four years, OSM has captured about 29% of the area of England, of which approximately 24% are digitised lines without a complete set of attributes. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings to the study of VGI as well as suggesting future research directions.

Date: 2010
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