Remember just over a year ago, when it was announced that much of the UK’s geographic information was to be made available free at the point of use, seems a long time ago does it not ? but a year on it’s hard to judge the real impact. Clearly this was the right thing to do, I had argued for such an approach for years, but I can’t help having a nagging feeling this may all have been too little too late.
To be clear Ordnance Survey has done a excellent job, promoting their free data-sets, and have built a robust mechanism to provide access to their excellent free products, and even better have used their new freedoms to innovate using this data in particular pioneering geographic linked data.
Behind the OS opendata announcements of last year was the unresolved issue of providing greater access to geocoded address information, in simple terms the mechanism which turns your house number and postcode, something everybody knows, into a OS grid co-ordinate or more commonly now latitude and longitude which very few people know. This makes geocoded address data one of the most useful parts of government data, and was clearly an important missing part of the whole opendata story.
The reason the issue was unresolved was a bitter battle between three parts of government, the Royal Mail, Ordnance Survey and the Local Government developers of the National Land and Property Gazetteer (NLPG), each of which had a commercial interest in developing different address data products.
Last week Bob Neill,Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, at the Dept. of Communities and Local Government announced the creation of a single national address gazetteer database to be made available free of charge within government via the new PSMA but commercially licensed to everybody else.
The Geoplace database represents a take-over of the NLPG by the OS and the nationalisation of Intelligent Addressing Ltd the company that was developing NLPG on behalf of Local Government, bet you did not expect that from this government 🙂 So at last we will have one national address register for England, Wales and potentially Scotland (Not Northern Ireland it seems), but despite this clear progress there is an obvious question..
Should such a core nationally important data-set to not be part of the governments opendata project ?
Written and submitted from the Royal Geographical Society (51.501N, 0.175W)