Free Our Data: the blog

A Guardian Technology campaign for free public access to data about the UK and its citizens


Why making satellite navigation data expensive isn’t helpful

In today’s Guardian I’ve written about the experience of Emlyn Williams – who is perplexed by the fact that delivery drivers with satellite navigation systems can’t find his street, which dates back to the 1980s (when the house was built).

Why can’t they find it? Because although local councils create the address information, which they send to the Post Office, which sends it to the Ordnance Survey (which “puts it on the map”), satellite navigation companies can’t always afford the OS prices. And councils are barred from selling the location data to satnav companies – because they use OS products to record any changes. (We’ve got council minutes.)

Which means that in order to save some small sums for the taxpayer, by making OS revenue-neutral, taxpayers have to bear the extra congestion and pollution caused by drivers trying to find locations, while satnav systems’ prices are either kept artificially high, or are inadequate. The data’s all there, recorded by public bodies. Who are we “protecting” by charging so much for it?

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