Thursday, 23 April 2009

Ordnance Survey’s new strategy....

Richard Allan’s socitm09 presentation (he’s the Chairman of the Power of Information Task Force) again brought up the serious data licensing problems that have been introduced by Ordnance Survey.

It would appear that their highly restrictive licensing of data is providing a major obstacle for the public sector to use graphical presentations of data – something that is absolutely key to good public access. I’ve encountered these sorts of problems with trying to negotiate access to NLPG, and it relates not to licensing but to payment – i.e. the licences are being used as an attempt to extract further funds from the OS customers - sometimes very significant sums.

This has surely been disjointed government at its best – one agency, OS, trying to cross-charge other government organisations (e.g. LA’s) – charges that the other organisations can’t afford, so the data doesn’t get displayed, and the citizen loses out. No wonder Google and Microsoft Maps are growing in use for displaying geographic data...

However, and perhaps in response to the criticism and competition, I note that the OS has today announced a
New Business Strategy, which promises to focus on five key areas:

Promoting innovation – with an enhanced free OS OpenSpace service to allow experimentation with digital information and a clear path from this service to greater commercialisation;

Reforming Ordnance Survey’s licensing framework – so that it is much simpler to use Ordnance Survey data and services in other applications;

Reducing costs over time – to ensure that Ordnance Survey continues to offer value-for-money;

Supporting the sharing of information across the public sector – to enable better public policy and services;

Creating an innovative trading entity – to explore commercial opportunities around providing a better platform for consumers to access Ordnance Survey products.

I hope that this will result in a complete about-turn by OS on the fees for use of its data – personally I’m pessimistic – my experience is that strategies in the public sector can take years to implement (and sometimes implementations never see the light of day). The strategy is currently light on detail, but results are promised in the next year – we’ll have to wait to see what transpires over the coming months.....

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