Free Our Data: the blog

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

South Africa: mapping is free (and so is other government information)

The opening of the South African government’s Freedom of Information Act 2000 states its position bluntly:


  • the system of government in South Africa before 27 April 1994, amongst others, resulted in a secretive and unresponsive culture in public and private bodies which often led to an abuse of power and human rights violations;
  • section 8 of the Constitution provides for the horizontal application of the rights in the Bill of Rights to juristic persons to the extent required by the nature of the rights and the nature of those juristic persons;
  • section 32(1)(a) of the Constitution provides that everyone has the right of access to any information held by the State;
  • section 32(1)(h) of the Constitution provides for the horizontal application of the right of access to information held by another person to everyone when that information is required for the exercise or protection of any rights;

..and the upshot: maps of South Africa are free. Have a look at the maps pricing page: the only charge is for postage and packing. Which on the digital products is zero, though with the proviso that the supply of digital information not contained in the off-the-shelf products and/or required in any other format, an hourly rate will apply to prepare such information: Provided further that the Chief Director of Surveys and Mapping can provide the data in the required format.

Questions we’d like to know the answers to:

  • how much does it cost to do this?
  • is the mapping agency’s budget assured, and if so, how?
  • how is the quality of the mapping data assured? (We can have a guess at this from the fact that there’s a network of GPS stations, whose locations are available for download, for free)
  • Has this led to any measurable increase in mapping services in the private sector?
  • Has it had any negative or beneficial effect on mapping suppliers – including the government mapping agency?

We’ll be trying to contact the SAMA, but if anyone has any pointers to answers to these questions, we’d be grateful for the information.

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