Saturday January 23 2010

UK Government consultation for free geodata

The Government have launched a consultation on how to make Ordnance Survey data free with no restrictions on reuse. You can read the consultation here (pdf), and can use this form to submit what you think about it.

osconsult.ernestmarples.com

A new website by the team behind Ernest Marples encourages you to have your say on this Government proposal which ends on Wednesday 17 March 2010.

The proposal is long, detailed and typically waffly. The Government are asking for feedback on 12 specific questions (search for “List of consultation questions” in the PDF) but also welcome any general comments about making geospatial data more available in the UK.

You can either respond via osconsult.ernestmarples.com or email the Government directly: giconsultation@communities.gsi.gov.uk

Here’s my response:

Geodata for Digital Britain

The barrier to entry for building useful applications that improve our daily lives is no longer technological, nor is it financial. Today, given talent and motivation, the tools needed to launch such applications are cheaply and readily available. Open source software, commodity hardware and cheap bandwidth have allowed those with time and passion to build services that once required huge budgets and complex contractual agreements.

In this context, geospatial data is a crucial asset in the march towards an engaged and innovative society. It brings valuable context to other datasources, and–amongst other uses–can enable more efficient use of transport systems (livebus.org), a fairer housing market (mapumental.com) and a faster response to local problems (fixmystreet.com)

FixMyStreet uses licensed Ordnance Survey data but the ideas behind it could only have sprung up within the recent climate of geospatial thinking encouraged by Google’s democratisation of maps. Creative and motivated individuals are now putting their efforts into thinking about the geographic context, its uses for society, and its benefits for the economy. This trend needs to be supported by available data. None of the above services could exist without it.

For data to be available to individuals, it needs to be cheap, downloadable, reusable, and come with clear and permissive terms for non-commercial use.

The government should be encouraging Ordnance Survey, Royal Mail, and others who control such data, to think about licensing structures that allow individuals to make a difference to our lives. Paid licenses are of course valuable for the commercial sector, but creative citizens with ideas and a social conscience should be provided with the opportunity to compete. They have after all proven to be far more innovative and productive than many of the largest corporations.

Digital Britain should be about more than just benefitting big business. Let’s think of citizens too.

Comments welcome via email or Twitter