Free Our Data: the blog

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

NIMSA is dead: bad news for Ordnance Survey – and free data?

A terse announcement from the new Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) says that the National Interest Mapping Services Agreement (NIMSA), which “funds mapping services which are in the national interest, but would not otherwise be provided by the market as they are not economically viable”, is not going to be renewed when its seven-year term expires at the end of 2006.


DCLG considers that: (a) it is appropriate for some of the services which have been supported by NIMSA, to be procured directly by those public sector bodies who require them, either individually or collaboratively; and 

(b) it is appropriate for DCLG to continue supporting some national interest geographic activities but on a much smaller scale than previously.

And the effects on users?

Ordnance Survey has already indicated to DCLG that they are willing to continue to provide a ‘Mapping for Emergencies’ helpline service and national interest coastal survey work. Ordnance Survey will separately be advising users of any impacts of the decisions made by DCLG. 

We’d like to know what OS thinks those effects will be. (They’re welcome to say here in the comments, anonymously or not.) For OS, NIMSA might not have been a huge part of its income (anyone have a number?) but it did prove that it was worth having, because the market wouldn’t do it. (And we’ve heard a lot about market failure having extremely large knock-on effects recently.)

What’s faintly worrying about this is that it implies that DCLG doesn’t see OS as an important organisation. The Free Our Data contention is that OS is important, and that mapping everywhere, not just the bits that the market today thinks are important, matters. What we disagree about is the funding model.

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