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18 November 2009, 11:11

UK Government moves to free more public data

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Gordon Brown has announced that the government plans to open up map data from the Ordnance Survey, the UK's national mapping agency. The announcement was made by the Prime Minister in a speech at a Smarter Government seminar held at Downing Street where Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt also talked about the work being done with the "Make Public Data Public" project. According to The Guardian, the opening of map data will be part of a wider move to publish over 2,000 sets of data, which could include, for example, road-traffic counts, property prices, and motoring offence statistics.

The Ordnance Survey data is the subject of a consultation on the free provision of it's map data at a 1:10,000 scale. The consultation is expected to be completed by April 2010. Currently, OS map data is only available under a restricted licence which can cost thousands. Even local authorities have to pay for the map data. For example, Swindon had to pay £38,000 a year for address and geographical data from the Ordnance Survey even though it had collected much of the data.

However free provision of map data from the Ordnance Survey is contentious. The Ordnance Survey says it would cost from £500m to £1bn over five years to move to free provision of maps, but other studies have suggested it would cost only £12m and provide a net gain. Other organisations who may be forced to open up their data include transport companies who charge for commercial access to timetable information and the Highways Agency which has an exclusive deal to provide TrafficTV with motorway video data.


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