Free Our Data: the blog

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


Departments weigh in on select committee Ordnance Survey enquiry

While we transcribe our meeting with Michael Wills – which was very interesting, but needs a proper transcript to do it justice and be sure it’s correct – here’s something to chew over. The Communities and Local Government select committee is holding an enquiry into Ordnance Survey, and ahead of any oral hearings has been gathering written evidence.

And very interesting reading it makes – notably that from Defra, which is hardly the chummy stuff one expects from one government department about another (even if it is a trading fund):

Defra and OS have enjoyed a close working relationship throughout the recent negotiations on INSPIRE. However, the Defra Network also experiences difficulties in sharing data derived from OS mapping with our wider delivery partners. [Emphasis added – CA]

Difficulties, eh? There’s more:

Defra co-ordinated and maintained the UK government position for INSPIRE. Officials worked closely with OS to safeguard the interests of Trading Funds. The EC starting point in negotiations had been that no charges should be allowed for licensing of data between public sector organisations.

However, the Directive will require license terms and conditions for geographic data to be consistent across Europe and consistent with the objectives of the Directive, which are to support sharing and re-use of environmental data.

OS mapping underpins a wide range of Defra Network activities including, for example, the administration of farming subsidy payments and the management of animal disease outbreaks.

We also need to share data derived from OS mapping with our wider delivery partners, non-government organisations and the public. OS licence terms and conditions can constrain our ability to share this information. [Emphasis added – CA] It is our understanding that these difficulties arise at least in part from the dual role of OS as a public information holder and a commercially operating organisation, which is a specific area of interest for the Committee.

There’s plenty more from other organisations. Any gems you’ve noticed?

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