ODI calls for tech giants to open up their geospatial data

DataIQ News

The Open Data Institute is urging the Government to force the likes of Apple, Google and Uber to publish their mapping data to help the development of new services and technologies.

The Government has estimated that maximising the value of such data could generate up to £11bn a year and it has committed to making the geospatial data it holds more openly available, particularly that held by Ordnance Survey.

In a new report, "The UK’s geospatial data infrastructure: challenges and opportunities", the ODI shows how commercial organisations now collect geospatial data “quickly and at scale”, yet it claims that these “data monopolies” are stifling innovation in the UK.

These companies duplicate one another’s efforts, says the report, while using their large financial clout to gain insurmountable leads over would-be rivals.

Geospatial data, which includes addresses and city boundaries, supports dozens of everyday services, from parcel and food deliveries to apps like Google Maps and Uber. Technology companies possess vast amounts of geospatial data, but it is largely inaccessible to others and the ODI argues it should be as open and part of the “national infrastructure.”

Analysing map data can help communities and organisations make decisions across a range of sectors, for example, how to improve access to a school or hospital. Data could also boost the development of new technologies like drones, commercial satellites, and driverless and connected cars, the report says.

ODI chief executive Jeni Tennison said: “Like other parts of our data infrastructure, we believe that geospatial data should be as open as possible while respecting privacy, national security and commercial confidentiality. In many cases, geospatial data can be open data for anyone to access, use and share.

“Our report shows that open geospatial data is necessary to enable innovation and growth in key sectors. To deliver this, the Government must engage and work with private companies, who are creating and collecting geospatial data as part of their businesses, to explore how that data can benefit everyone.

“The UK needs an effective geospatial strategy that looks beyond geospatial data holders in the public sector. Without it, the UK will fail to meet commitments to industries that rely on new technology, such as driverless cars and drone delivery.”