The government has been running a consultation on proposals to open up Ordnance Survey’s data relating to electoral and local authority boundaries, postcode areas and mid scale mapping information.

We have responded: Our response to the Ordnance Survey data consultation

The key points we make are that:

  • Without change, Ordnance Survey is at considerable risk of being left behind for many applications that do not require extreme accuracy, particularly as satellite imagery, crowd-sourcing, and other means of obtaining data become cheaper and more widespread.
  • Public-facing government-based IT solutions in areas like our own will increasingly simply not be able to keep up with the pace of private and community sector initiatives.
  • We are particularly strongly in favour of the release of postcode data. Much of this we believe has been created ultimately at taxpayer cost.
  • We believe it is unacceptable for boundary data to be held under any non-open data license. By definition, boundary data is self-referencing: it cannot be re-surveyed.
  • Any release of OS data under less restrictive licenses should be for raw data rather than raster imagery. There is no need to release cartographic imagery and that should remain an income source for the OS.
  • We feel that the OS’ claims of derivative rights over point-source data (as distinct from line-based data) are increasingly untenable and must be scrapped. No serious developer would willingly choose to give away their IP in such an unacceptable manner.
  • Data collected at taxpayer expense should be freely available.

The concluding summary of our response reads:

“Community-based initiatives have the potential to provide web-based facilities of interest to citizens at much lower cost and more innovatively than the government itself can achieve. These organisations and others should have access to data under an Open license. Wide access to such data has the potential to create an explosion of uses, as well as lower costs to the taxpayer overall. Thus we favour options 2 [full opening up of the data] or 3 [partial/staged opening up]. Furthermore, the role of government in geographical data should therefore be to facilitate release of data to enable these initiatives to flourish (with the tax revenues this will create), rather than to attempt to withhold the data and create monopoly services. Furthermore, data collected at public expense should always be made freely available.”