National mapping agencies
UNESCO has a nice page listing national mapping agencies and their contact details. It is interesting to see the different policies. The USA has the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which makes all its data available in the public domain as is usual with American government agencies’ data. Britain’s Ordnance Survey (OS) is sophisticated but expensive and proprietary. Senegal’s Direction des Travaux GÃ©ographiques et Cartographiques (DTGC) sells its maps in Euros, which seems suspiciously like a colonial hangover.
And then we have the Middle East. Bahrain’s Survey Directorate does not even have a website, but nor does that UAE’s Ministry of Public Works and Housing or Saudi Arabia’s Aerial Survey Department. The latter is part of the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, which probably means that the data is highly secret under a national security excuse (to avoid terrorists attacking the oil fields).
Now, navigating around Bahrain is difficult. Everytime I go there it is hard to find any map of the streets. I wish the GCC countries would make their maps available in the public domain – it would help their economies as private companies build services on top of the data, and help the tourists as they visited the different cities and countries.