Ordnance Survey Thoughts

OS future begins to emerge…

The Treasury has spoken.. (that in itself gives you a sense of where this might be heading !!)

From the Treasury Operational Efficiency Programme report published yesterday..

“The OEP has concluded so far that Ordnance Survey needs to be more customer-focused and  commercially driven. The Government is therefore publishing a new commercial strategy for  the Ordnance Survey on their website. 

The new strategy balances the requirement to  maintain the highest quality standards with the need to significantly enhance ease of access  to geographic data and services for both commercial and non-commercial use.   

The new strategy seeks to equip Ordnance Survey to thrive in and better support competition and innovation in a wider geographical information market that is being transformed by advances in technology.  It is a significant and ambitious programme of change. The Government has set key milestones for delivery in 6 and 12 months’ time and beyond, as well as a process for independent review and challenge of progress. 

If sufficient progress is not made to promote competition and innovation in these timescales, the Government will consider further reforms. Opportunities to accelerate the delivery of initiatives through introducing further commercial experience and capabilities will be fully explored over the coming year. ”

So all eyes on

Written and submitted from the Google Office, London.

7 replies on “OS future begins to emerge…”

So anotherwords little more than cosmetic change. Yet another opportunity wasted to boost a sector of British industry that is being stifled by a government owned monopoly. Especially disappointing when they could have eliminated a wasteful and inefficient money-go-round within public sector and helped to boost tax returns from the GI industry in the medium term. Short term gain for the Treasury wins against medium term gains for the economy as a whole.

It will be interesting to see what happens, I’m not overly optimistic but you never know.

I’d love it if they made some data publicly available for non-commercial use, but knowing our government they will sell the privilege of displaying that data to a big company (MS/Google/Yahoo!) and not use a public friendly service like OSM/OAM or a (shudder) WMS, it’s easy enough to watermark imagery so I see no reason why this couldn’t be done.

Are we on our way?

Michael Cross
The Guardian, Thursday 23 April 2009

The government has kicked into touch a decision on the future of its largest state-owned digital information business. The Communities and Local Government department will today announce that the Ordnance Survey must make more of its data available to re-users – while apparently grooming part of the agency for future privatisation.

The new business strategy, published the day after the budget, follows a review by the Treasury’s Shareholder Executive. The headline finding is that “a model where a user pays a licence fee for OS data continues to be the most effective way of balancing the need to increase the availability of geographic information to the wider UK economy and society while maintaining the quality of OS data”.

But in a concession long called for by the Free Our Data campaign and others, boundaries information will be available for free as part of an extended “OS OpenSpace” service. Also available will be some OS products “from 1:10,000 scale through to 1:1 million scale”. The MasterMap database will remain proprietary.

Intriguingly, the strategy proposes a “wholly owned subsidiary company” to “further OS’s ability to offer new and innovative services to government, business and individual customers alike”. It will license OS data on the same terms as any commercial rival. The new subsidiary is “part of the drive to ensure that OS is sustainable for the medium term and value is generated for the taxpayer”.

The use of “medium term” seems to imply the “innovative trading entity” is set up with an eye to privatisation – although that is “absolutely not” the intention, says Iain Wright, shareholder minister for OS.

Wright says he understands the free data argument and that “for low level users, community or voluntary based, it is reasonable that data should be free. But if something happens on the scale of a potential Google in the UK, it’s right that some benefit flows to the taxpayer.”

OS announcement on their website

News release
Romsey Road
United Kingdom, SO16 4GU

23 April 2009

New Business Strategy for Ordnance Survey announced

A series of reforms aimed at creating simpler and easier access to geographic data have been announced by Ordnance Survey Minister, Iain Wright.

The Government has published a new strategy for Ordnance Survey which will improve ease of access to geographic data and services for both commercial and non-commercial use.

The strategy will balance the need to maintain the highest quality standards with the need to stimulate innovation in the geographic information market and make data more widely available.

Ordnance Survey will continue to be self-funded and earn revenue by licensing its data, but it will make sure it is easier for customers and other businesses to access its data and services.

Iain Wright said: “Good maps and location intelligence play an important role in all our lives from plotting pot holes in the road to how we act in a national emergency.

“We are committed to innovation in the geographic information market, increasing competition and to making geographic data and services more widely available.

“This new strategy will help Ordnance Survey thrive in the wider geographic information market that is being transformed by advances in technology and act as a catalyst for innovative business growth and prosperity in the 21st century economy.”

Sir Rob Margetts, Ordnance Survey Non-Executive Chair, commented: “I am delighted to be leading Ordnance Survey as we implement this new strategy which has as its core the aim of growing the scale and scope of use of geographic information for business, social and individual use.”

Vanessa Lawrence CB, Ordnance Survey Director General and Chief Executive, added: “This new strategy represents the next exciting chapter in Ordnance Survey’s long history. It will ensure that high-quality geographic information remains at the heart of public thinking and decision-making and increases opportunities for innovative new consumer and business ideas.”

The strategy focuses 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.

The enhanced OS OpenSpace service, the digital mapping portal that enables innovators to experiment and develop their ideas for free, will be launched on the 12 May.

The Government has set key milestones for delivery over the next year and the Shareholder Executive and the Office of Public Sector Information, in consultation with the Office of Fair Trading, will be regularly reviewing progress.

Full details of the strategy can be found at:

Notes for editors

This announcement follows the Trading Funds Assessment, a review looking at how a number of Government businesses which charge for information could make information available at no or limited cost.

It was announced in the budget that further work on the future business plans and models for specific trading funds, as well as consideration of the effectiveness of the Trading Fund model – will now be incorporated into the Operational Efficiency Programme.

The review concluded that the data produced by the Ordnance Survey was more likely to be maintained at high-quality levels under a commercial, revenue-funded model rather than through direct funding from taxation. Ordnance Survey customers told the review team that the quality of the data was important to them, but they wanted Ordnance Survey to provide easier access to it so they can use it more widely in their own business or in new products for consumers.

Further details on the findings of the review are available from the Shareholder Executive Website

Changes nothing. The only thing that would have made a difference is to make all OS data free to all government departments and agencies. This would allow them to get on with their day to day business. Stop the PGA/MSA/One Scotland money merry go round and save the public sector a fortune in administering them.

I work with the emergency services at the moment and the lack of access to some of the data (through astronomical licensing costs and ridiculous derived data rules) will compromise their ability to respond to incidents and save lives. Not exactly value for money for the taxpayer.

Here is an interesting statistic. The NHS budget for 2007-2008 was about £100 billion. The OS made an operating profit of about £23 million. That means that the NHS spent that money in an hour or two. What is the point?

I have to say I am pretty damn cross right now.

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