Free Our Data: the blog

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


Hospital health mapping project blocked.. yes, Ordnance Survey again, this time vs Department of Health

Yes, you’d rather read about how successfully we’re being in getting the government to listen to this campaign. (Well, we hope to have some more news on that later this week.)

Meanwhile, you can read about how the North East Patient Health Observatory (Nepho) wanted to map data such as life expectancy, mortality and so on by local authority.

Sorry, said the Ordnance Survey, but no. Hence the announcement:

This service is currently suspended at the request of Ordnance Survey until an agreement for the use of certain data files and software has been reached between OS and the Department of Health. We regret we are unable to provide this service at this time.

So have we got this right? One arm of government needs permission from another (very much smaller) arm of government to create maps of data that would help the very much bigger arm of government – and the taxpayers wanting to know what’s happened to their taxes in the bigger government department – find out what’s happening.

Maybe it’s just me, but this seems daft.

Update 1 March: Ordnance Survey’s PR has got in touch, and sends this response:

NEPHO chose to withdraw from the pan-government agreement for mapping data when the Department for Communities asked them to pay a contribution like everyone else. They withdrew but continued to use unlicensed data. That situation is unfair to the other members of the agreement and we were required to ask them to stop. In order to find a solution we are actively working with NEPHO and advising them that they can access the data they need under the agreement as a contractor for the Department for Health. It is not a matter of us versus the Dept for Health as you claim in the headline.

We’ll see if we can get some clarification from NEPHO.

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