|What's it all about?|
On March 9 2006 the Guardian's Technology supplement carried an article called "Give us back our crown jewels". The argument is simple: government-funded and approved agencies such as the Ordnance Survey and UK Hydrographic Office and Highways Agency are government-owned agencies; they collect data on our behalf. So why can't we get at that data as easily as we can Google Maps or the Xtides program?
Even though OS and the UK Hydrographic Office are designated as trading funds (which means that they operate as self-contained commercial entities receiving no direct tax funding), substantial parts of their income - up to 50% in the case of OS - comes from the public sector; meaning, in effect, they are part-paid by taxes. Yet they charge for that data, with onerous copyright restrictions that prevent the re-use of the data.
That restricts innovation and artificially restricts the number and variety of organisations that can offer services based on that most useful data - which our taxes have helped to collect.
Making that data available for use for free - rather as commercial companies such as Amazon and Google do with their catalog and maps data - would vastly expand the range of services available. It cannot make any sense that Google, an American organisation, is presently more popular with people aiming to create new map applications.
|What can you do?|
In the first place, lobby your MP;
We'll aim to have news, opinions, strategies, and the latest thoughts and information from the campaign here. You can get the RSS feeds on the page. (Confused? Read What's an RSS feed and why can it help me?)
Other people have had the same problems; some have succeeded in overcoming them. This by no means exhaustive set of links aims to be a pointer.
If you'd like to help by providing technical expertise (which could include layout tips..), or want to tell us about your experiences, you can contact Charles Arthur or Michael Cross (who jointly wrote the original article). You can reach Charles Arthur via the Guardian: the switchboard number is +44 (0) 20 3353 2000.