It has taken me a while to get round to commenting on the Trading Funds Report as I have been travelling, and it’s 150 pages long !!
It is a very important document in many ways, for the first time there is a well researched analysis from economists on the impact of different funding models for trading funds on the wider economy. This is something the GI industry and even some in the OS have been crying out for, for many years.
The conclusions are clear ,even through the internal pricing mechanisms within trading funds are very complex, the UK economy would be better off if the OS was to make is key data products (Landline and Mastermap) available at marginal (zero) cost.
The logic of this argument is actually simple if you think about it, on one hand the ludicrous merry-go-round of government departments paying another government department to license data would disappear, reducing costs and increasing the use of geographic information within government, particularly those departments who can’t currently afford it.
On the other hand the still relatively small GI Industry in the UK would flourish, being able to produce value added products based on the unrefined OS data, much as has happened in the US. And remember the companies that form the UK GI industry pay corporation tax unlike the OS.
So the Free our Data campaign is vindicated, we can just sit back and wait for our MasterMap DVD’s in the post… unfortunately no.
The reports authors calculate that the welfare (value of the benefits to the UK economy) would be around £168m for which there would need to be a subsidy paid to the OS of something between £12m and £85m! Not a bad return you might think, even the higher figure, but even if we take the lower amount, who is going to pay the £12m ?
This is a £12m subsidy not paid by any government department today, and it is much more than any one government department pays to license OS data today…
And even if you can find that £12m from within government, you then place the OS in the position where it’s continued operation and the quality of its data is reliant on a subsidy from government, a disastrous position which could result in a USGS like reduction in funding if political priorities change.
Now we have a much better handle of the economics of funding the OS why not look at different ways of funding its operation which still allow increased access to the data.
Fro example, rather than licensing data to create revenue, why not fund the activities through as registration process. It just so happens that the biggest user of OS large scale data is the Land Registry, for producing your title plans, it would be simple to add a fee to each property transaction to fund the OS…
I hope the publication of this long awaited report moves the debate into the circles who can actually make some decisions, for the sake of the UK GI Industry somebody needs to make a decision on this issue once and for all.
Written and submitted from the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Sydney, using its broadband network