John Denham: Access to Ordnance Survey data will drive innovation and change

Published 31 March 2010

A historic milestone on the road towards transforming Britain into a 21st century digital economy was reached today as Communities Secretary John Denham announced that fundamental Ordnance Survey data would be made available to the public for free.

Members of the public, entrepreneurs and social organisations will now be able to access certain Ordnance Survey data and use it for applications such 'Fix My Street' or crime mapping - practical systems focused on driving improvements locally. These changes aim to drive new markets and unlock new potential for jobs in existing and new technologies.

From its origins as a military mapping organisation, Ordnance Survey will now play a key role in transforming Britain into a modern, 21st century digital economy. Following extensive consultation, Communities Secretary John Denham today announced that information relating to administrative boundaries, postcode areas and mid-scale mapping will now be made freely available for use and re-use.

The move has been welcomed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee OBE, the inventor of the World Wide Web and the head of the new Institute of Web Science announced by the Prime Minister last week. He said:

"I'm delighted that the Ordnance Survey is releasing this data for free re-use. It will help people make fuller use of other government data on data.gov.uk, as well as stimulating innovation in mapping itself."

The opening up of Ordnance Survey data will also unlock real potential for innovation in the private sector. Start ups and companies not currently active in the geographical information market could deliver new products by adding data or information they might have themselves or from elsewhere, including other Government data, to 'mash' with the free for re-use data from Ordnance Survey to create new commercial products.

Communities Secretary John Denham welcomed the changes saying:

"This shows the UK is at the cutting edge of a digital revolution. The move to free up public data encourages fresh thinking - people re-using information in different and more imaginative ways than may have originally been intended. A seemingly endless stream of new applications and websites continues to show the potential of combining information, creative vision and digital technology.

"Increasing access to Ordnance Survey data will attract a new wave of entrepreneurs and result in new solutions to old problems that will benefit us all. It will also drive a new industry, creating new jobs and driving future growth.

"The changes signal a wider cultural change in Government based on an assumption that information should be in the public domain unless there is a good reason not to - not the other way around. Greater openness, accountability and transparency in Government will give people greater choice and make it easier for individuals to get more directly involved in issues that matter to them."

Sir Rob Margetts CBE, Ordnance Survey's Non-Executive Chairman, adds:

"The launch of OS OpenData has been made possible because of the Government's commitment to providing ongoing funding to support this data package, in order to ensure a sustainable Ordnance Survey for the future, for which I am thankful. This is fundamental to maintaining the quality of the data for which Ordnance Survey is globally renowned."

Professor Nigel Shadbolt, University of Southampton, Co-Director of the Institute for Web Science and Government Information Advisor, has also welcomed the move:

"OS OpenData makes critical geographic information freely available to all of us. Our goal has been to facilitate innovation and reuse, to allow everyone the opportunity to enrich this valuable public data."

The modified datasets to be released have been renamed OS OpenData™. This will provide access to a range of Ordnance Survey data free of charge and without restrictions on use and re-use. The following Ordnance Survey datasets will be released for free on 1st April 2010:

  • OS Street View®
  • 1:50,000 Gazetteer
  • 1:250,000 Scale Colour Raster
  • OS Locator™
  • Boundary-Line™
  • Code-Point® Open
  • Meridian™ 2
  • Strategi®
  • MiniScale®
  • OS VectorMap™ District (available 1 May 2010)
  • Land-Form PANORAMA®

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

"Over the past few months we have been working extremely hard to put in place all the steps which were necessary in order to deliver the Prime Minister's objective. I believe that OS OpenData delivers on that vision, providing a wide range of Ordnance Survey mapping for reuse and without restriction.

"Since the release of the public consultation we have seen the launch of Data.gov.uk which demonstrates how important high quality and well maintained geography is in enabling data from different sources to be linked, used and understood. I am therefore pleased that Ordnance Survey data , long recognised as world class, for currency, accuracy and quality, has been identified as having a fundamental role to play as key to underpinning in the future growth of the Smarter Government and Making Public Data Public initiatives."


Notes to editors

1. An extensive consultation on the proposals to make certain datasets free closed 17 March 2010. The consultation received 441 responses.

2. The 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. The proposals seek to ensure Ordnance Survey is at the heart of digital innovation in Britain. The Government's consultation on these proposals ran from 23 December 2009 to 17 March 2010. OS OpenData will be available from 1 April 2010. Further conclusions, details of this policy and impact assessment can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/corporate/ordnancesurveyconresponse.

4. The changes will make the information on offer more useful to developers and will ensure that popular and useful paper maps continue to be made available for users. Users should visit www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/opendata (external link) to start downloading data.


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