Data Policy Thoughts

Your starter for ten, Define public task…

As someone points out in the comments of this Free Our Data post, the definition of the Ordnance Survey’s public task was clearly written by the OS, I would suggest maybe even Vanessa Lawrence herself.

But if you were the CEO of a large commercial organisation would you not want to write your own mission statement ? Of course you would, but in most public companies this would be done with reference to your shareholders and discussed by your executive board with the input of your industry experienced chairman, well at least in theory anyway.

The problem here is the lack of knowledgeable oversight of the activities of the OS, the public task of the OS was defined by the OS because nobody else within government was either qualified or interested to do so, things are certainly beginning to change post the Power of Information report, but still the underlying value of geospatial information; and it’s huge potential if made more accessible, remains hidden behind bureaucratic processes.

Perhaps the mythical UK Location Strategy might suggest a way forward, I wonder who wrote that…

Written and submitted from the Iberia Lounge, Madrid Airport, using its 802.11 network.

2 replies on “Your starter for ten, Define public task…”

I agree that every organisation would want to set out its own vision, and you comment rightly that private companies would do this in conjunction with their shareholders. OS will probably say that the Shareholder Executive in Government has fulfilled this scrutiny. But that misses the point…

Despite its obligations to make a profit (as a Trading Fund), OS is still a public agency. We expect public agencies, and government in general, to consult when it sets out its remit. We also don’t expect “turf wars” to break out as one government department claims ownership of a task run by another government department.

This shouldn’t be too much to ask of OS.

The purpose of public task has been made much more important in the area of public sector information, which the Free Our Data campaign highlights, because of the Regulations introduced to encourage the use of Public Sector Information. OPSI and APPSI have roles to safeguard public interests in PSI, and they haven’t been asked for views on OS’s new statement.

Lets at least do things the things that government needs to do in the open where they can be scrutinised by all of us. After all – as Gordon Brown and his cabinet have recently started to chorus – they are on the voters side!


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