Arguments about the importance of Open Data often come down to a principled stance, or a licensing discussion … that kind of argument doesn’t make much impression on folks who aren’t way in the weeds. And it’s more than just licensing … there are equal parts issues of legality, technical freedom, and community. Clear examples of what you can do only with OpenStreetMap, and not with say, Google Map Maker, makes this stuff real. Here are just a few, among many.
Mapping of Jalabad and surrounding countryside is unique to OSM. They collect data with GPS and Smart Phones and Walking Papers. With GMM, you can only trace imagery on your laptop computer. With OSM you can go into the field to actually talk with people about what to put on the map. Afghanistan is not an option at all on MapMaker, for political reasons. And the Jalalagood guys are organized as a company, but do mapping largely in their free time, voluntarily … so they get nixed for being “commercial”.
In Haiti, TapTapMap maps local bus routes, free to add any sort of data in OSM. In GMM, users are not allowed to add bus routes, only Google does that, and only by getting data from transit agencies. Haiti’s system, like many places in the developing world, does not have a single authority which maps and controls the routes. You can only get these routes by riding with your GPS.
Another project that certainly couldn’t happen without Open Data. This is a Tourist Map of the Gaza Strip. Produced by a spin-off company from a university that took part in OpenStreetMap mapping in Gaza. This is not an area that can even be mapped in Google because of a political decision, it’s mostly blank on the map. While the map is free, it’s produced by a commercial entity and contains ads for local restaurants, hotels and sites.
In the Phillippines, recent humanitarian response to flooding relied on open source tools to process and make available satellite imagery to create OSM data. The GMM toolset would not permit integration of any other data sources except those controlled by Google. So it would stifle local ability to respond to disasters that don’t make huge media splashes (G Crisis Response has not been active at all in the Philippines).