Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ordnance Survey Maps for Free

The UK Government has announced that Ordnance Survey map data will be freely available online to everybody from 2010.

The objective is to join the dots between what, when and in this case where and allow people to automatically link and interpret public statistics about crime, health and education by postcode, local authority or electoral boundary. This will be achieved by allowing developers to use information and stats on various subjects to be linked to OS maps to create hybrid enriched web information pages. It will able people to see all the things that are happening in a given location such as traffic accidents, speeding offences and car thefts.

According to Stephen Timms, Minister for Digital Britain, 80% of public sector data refers to a location and hence to a map.

The belief is that the current restrictions on the OS maps has held it back from being used and has favoured the many less accurate alternatives.

Gordon Brown announced the change at a joint event in London with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. Next year Brown intends to publish 2,000 sets of data of tax paper agencies: road-traffic counts over the past eight years, property prices lists with the stamp-duty yield, motoring offences with types of offence and the numbers, by county, for the top six offences. It is also expected that transport providers, such as train, tube and bus companies, will have to make their information free to all. The lists go on with hefty banks of data in agencies such as the Land Registry, Highways Agency currently selling their assets whilst this move threatens to give them away.

Brown expects consultation would be completed by April on the free provision of Ordnance Survey maps down to a scale of 1:10,000. This could introduce a significant loss to the agency but one that will be offset by the significant benefit to bodies such as Local authorities who currently spend a lot of money getting access to it. A Treasury study performed by a team at Cambridge University, claim found that making all OS data free would cost the government £12m and bring a net gain of £156m.

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