ODI hails decision to give free access to UK mapping data

DataIQ News

The Open Data Institute has welcomed the Government pledge to open up UK mapping data - announced in Chancellor Philip Hammond's Autumn Budget - claiming the decision will provide a much needed shot in the arm for businesses, communities and citizens across the country.

Having campaigned for many years to allow free access to the OS Master Map, which was previously only accessible to large companies who could afford it, the ODI reckons the move will make it easier to find and use data to help business start-ups and tackle local problems that impact people's lives.

ODI chairman and co-founder Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt said: "I'm delighted that the UK government is carrying through on the commitment in the Conservative manifesto to open up UK geospatial data. The data community has been pressing for this for many years. In particular, opening up the OS Master Map will stimulate growth and investment in the UK economy, generate jobs and improve services.

Shadbolt insists the OS Master Map provides the most detailed landscape data in the UK, adding that it will make it easier to find land for house-building as well as enable the development of services that improve vital infrastructure.

"The further announcement of the Geospatial Commission demonstrates a concrete commitment to this agenda. The ODI is ready to work with the Commission to ensure that all the benefits attached to opening up this data are fully realised," Shadbolt added.

ODI chief executive Dr Jeni Tennison explained that open access to OS Master Map is not just useful on its own: it will remove current legal barriers that limit the availability of other data – from the foreign ownership of land to the locations of parking spaces – which is essential to understand and tackle housing and transport challenges.

She said: "It is fantastic to see government committing to give great institutions like Ordnance Survey the support they need to provide data infrastructure fit for the 21st century.

"From our experience across other sectors, from banking to physical activity, we know these changes aren't straightforward. The Geospatial Commission and the institutions it works with will need to collaborate with businesses and civil society to understand the data they need, to enlist their help to improve its quality, and to promote innovation. We and our network are here to support this transformation."

The ODI says the announcement is part of adapting the UK to the 21st century, bringing together historic foresight and investment with its current leadership in open data and digital technology.

It opens up the opportunity for national mapping agencies to adapt to a future where they become stewards for national mapping data infrastructure, making sure that data is available to meet the needs of everyone in the country.