Proposals for free data from Ordnance Survey released

Published 23 December 2009

Communities Minister Ian Austin has today outlined proposals on how the public will have more access to Ordnance Survey mapping data from next year, as part of a Government drive to open up data to improve transparency.

The Prime Minister and Communities Secretary John Denham have previously announced the move to free up data as part of the Smarter Government and 'Making Public Data Public' initiative.

Communities and Local Government have today launched a consultation on which Ordnance Survey datasets can be made freely available to support digital innovation and democratic accountability.

Communities Minister, Ian Austin, said:

"The Prime Minister has set out the importance of an open data policy as part of broader efforts to strengthen democracy - creating a culture in which Government information is accessible and useful to as many people as possible in order to increase transparency and accountability, improve public services and create new economic and social value.

"Freely available facts and figures are essential for driving improvements in public services. It puts information, and therefore power, in the hands of the public and the service providers to challenge or demand innovation in public services.

"We are now consulting on proposals to make certain products from Ordnance Survey freely available so it can be used for digital innovation and to support democratic accountability."

Sir Rob Margetts, CBE, Chairman of Ordnance Survey said:

"I am pleased that the Government is today consulting on proposals to release for free some of Ordnance Survey's data to support innovation, accountability and growth. I also very much welcome the commitments made by Government to determine how the necessary funding required to underpin this initiative can be provided. An on-going funding commitment is fundamental to maintaining the sustained quality of Ordnance Survey's data that has made the organisation a world leader in its field."

Vanessa Lawrence CB, Director-General and Chief Executive of Ordnance Survey said:

"We welcome the publication of the consultation document and the opportunity it offers for our partners, customers, stakeholders, interested individuals and users of our data to offer their views."

The proposals will harness the world-class expertise that Ordnance Survey has in the production, maintenance and application of high-quality geospatial information. They build on reforms already delivered in the organisation and would ensure that it is right at the heart of digital innovation in Britain.

The possible range of products under consideration for release as part of the 'Ordnance Survey Free' includes:

  • 'Raster' products in a range of scales from 1:10,000 to 1:1 000 000 that will enable developers to produce an application that overlays their information on a map and to zoom-in from a national view down to the street level;
  • Definitive gazetteer, boundary and postcode information that will enable widespread use of these commonly used geographies and act as a link between other government data sets which reference the same geography;
  • Small-scale vector mapping products which would enable developers to link between boundary, postcode and mapping data.

Notes for editors

1. The consultation is available at: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/corporate/ordnancesurveyconsultation. The deadline for responses is 17 March 2010.

2. Ordnance Survey is a Government Department with Executive Agency and Trading Fund status and reports to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

3. These proposals were developed as part of the Making Public Data Public project being led by Sir Tim Berners-Lee on behalf of the Prime Minister and under Stephen Timms as Minister for Digital Britain. They will build on reforms already undertaken in Ordnance Survey over recent years.

4. Data relating to electoral and local authority boundaries as well as postcode areas would be released for free re-use. Mid-scale digital mapping information would also be released in the same way.

5. The proposal is for the free datasets to be released under Creative Commons type licensing with few or no restrictions on re-use.

6. The release of postcode information is subject to the agreement of third parties with intellectual property rights in the data.

7. The consultation sets out a number of ways of delivering the OS Free product set, including making the data available to view online, for bulk download and through an Application Programming Interface (API) similar to OS OpenSpace.

8. Ordnance Survey will still maintain a charging mechanism to cover the cost of the highest-specification products and services. The primary purpose of the consultation is to understand better the impact these proposals will have on the wider market for geographic information and how best to manage or mitigate any adverse consequences, whilst realising the maximum social welfare gain possible.

9. Government Departments and agencies will contribute towards the costs of these proposals to ensure that the changes are fiscally neutral and Ordnance Survey will have a sustainable funding mechanism to ensure the on-going quality of its data.

10. This is part of the Government's wider programme of reform, following on from the Operational Efficiency Programme: final report, published alongside the Budget in April 2009. It also draws on the work of Sir Tim Berners-Lee (the founder of the World Wide Web) and Professor Nigel Shadbolt who were asked by the Prime Minister in June this year to lead the Making Public Data Public project to drive the opening up of access to Government data. Nigel Shadbolt is Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Deputy Head (Research) of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, has also been appointed to lead a Local Public Data Panel to make sure data is linked effectively across government, councils and local bodies.


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