In a press release earlier this week, it was announced that there will be moves to open up geospatial data produced by the Ordnance Survey:
The Prime Minister and Communities Secretary John Denham will today announce that the public will have more access to Ordnance Survey maps from next year, as part of a Government drive to open up data to improve transparency.
While in the past Ordnance Survey have made limited data available with restrictions on how it can be used (such as via the OpenSpace API)- it looks like the new material will be open as in the Open Knowledge Definition, meaning it can be used for any purpose, including commercial:
Data relating to electoral and local authority boundaries as well as postcode areas would be released for free re-use, including commercially. Mid-scale digital mapping information would also be released in the same way.
At the Open Knowledge Foundation, we believe there are a plethora of social and economic benefits to making data open. In a similar vein, the release says:
Making public data available also enables people to reuse it in different and more imaginative ways than may have originally been intended. Estimates suggest that this could generate as much as a billion pounds for the UK economy.
For example developers might use this information alongside other Government data about transport, health or education, for services that generate economic and social value.
Openness of data is as important for local government as it is for national government – making people more connected to their community and giving them the tools to demand action on issues that matter. Releasing council records in re-usable form could mean that citizens can find out everything from the council accounts to the number of streetlights and community wardens, to when the rubbish is collected and the hedges trimmed.
The news was also reported by the BBC and the Guardian:
The relevant Ordnance Survey data is set to be released in April 2010. Very exciting news!
Dr. Jonathan Gray is Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, where he is currently writing a book on data worlds. He is also Cofounder of the Public Data Lab; and Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam) and the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris). More about his work can be found at jonathangray.org and he tweets at @jwyg.