Free Our Data: the blog

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

Ordnance Survey provides redacted version of its study into its financial organisation

Ordnance Survey responded to our FOI request for publication of its study into itself and the best financial organisation for itself.

And in these times when MPs’ expenses are redacted, of course OS isn’t going to let us see everything.

That’s why the document, which I’ve uploaded as a PDF (though it’s originally a TIFF – apparently a scan of the paper document once the black marker pen had been wielded), is full of lacunae.

After some struggles (apologies) it’s now available as a PDF (3.7MB).

Have a look for yourself and see what strikes you as interesting.

This isn’t the final version of what we’ll get, however. In its response to me, OS says

Please see attached a redacted version of the International Comparison of Geographical Information Trading Models – Study report (ref: 71171). The report was commissioned by the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Iain Wright MP, formed part of an input to the Trading Funds Assessment undertaken by the Shareholder Executive on behalf of HM Treasury and the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (now Business, Innovation and Skills).

As you are aware this is an interim report while we wait for approval from the countries/agencies, who took part in the study, to release information related to them. The extension date for the next version of the report is 23 July 2009.

We’ll compare the two, of course. But it’s likely there will still be stuff cut out because it’s too sensitive for us poor souls.

9 Responses to “Ordnance Survey provides redacted version of its study into its financial organisation”

  1. Tony Kennick Says:

    Can you free the data a bit round here and switch the feed from summary to full article?

  2. Tim Says:

    It’s not a scan. I expect they converted the document to TIFF to be certain there weren’t any PDF redacting cock-ups. Shame. :-)

  3. Tim Says:

    PS: They seem to have removed everything of interest. You could almost reconstruct the document from its contents page!

  4. WIlliam Allbrook Says:

    Black is back! A rather pointless gesture.

    If OS data underpins £100 billion of Britain’s GDP there is sufficient to make the data free or!

  5. Mo Says:

    I wonder—are you going to have to submit a second FOI request to find out why the landmass, population, population density and GDP-per-capita of Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States were redacted, or is this now complaint to the ICO for wilful obstruction of a legitimate request?

  6. Charles Arthur Says:

    @Tony – the feed is, and always has been, full rather than summary. Let me know how you’re reading it if the problem persists.

  7. Peter Miller Says:

    In section 7.2 they say they are “not able to determine the level of usage and innovation across counties as a consequence of NMA policies”. That is a shame because it is crux of the whole issue from our perspective! I wonder if we can help them on this?

    We know for example that the US provided TIGER data to OpenStreetMap (OSM) and that Canada has also released a lot of data to OSM. We know that OSM is very active in Canada and the USA. We also know that the US and Canadian agencies have released data to many other parties who are using it. Could we produce a table for each of their example countries to show what is happening with the data and how this compares with the UK?

    It is worth remembering that many UK organisations that would like to free data about their activities can’t because of OS licensing issues. Sustrans can’t release their national cycle route data for this reason. Many other UK organisations such as the Woodland Trust, National Trust etc are probably in the same situation where they would like to provide data but aren’t able to cos of OS data within their data. We notice that in the FAQ for the ‘World Database on Protected Areas’ there is a question “Why are there no protected areas for the United Kingdom in the WDPA?”. The answer is “Due to publishing restrictions on the UK protected areas data we are currently unable to include these sites in the WDPA. UNEP-WCMC are working with data partners and UK agencies to resolve this issue”. Sounds like the OS to me.

    Canada by way of contrast has been able to publish its ‘Canadian Protected Areas’ without charge. I wonder what innovative use has been made of this data?

    I notice that Canada has also approved the release of all its road data to OpenStreetMap in Dec08:-

    This OSM wiki page gives in incomplete list of many datasets that have been imported already into OSM categorised by county:-

    And this one highlights many datasources that the project would like to import arranged by county:-

    Incidentally the Department for Transport in the UK was only able to release the UK database of the positions of 360,000 bus stops, train stations etc to OSM earlier this year because the data had been created independently from the OS (at a cost) and thereby avoided their derived data issues.

    Finally, I am involved in Ideas in Transit, a 5-year UK government funded research project that looks for information based bottom-up innovation in the transport sector (in which the OS is also a partner). There are lots of good projects there, many of which rely on free-to-use data. Are any of these relevant to the question raised in 7.2? Feel free to add projects of details to the wiki.

    We regularly update images showing the intensity of user involvement in OSM around the world including in North America. This image shows some recent bulk imports of data in the various states in the USA and Canada as well as the general high levels of edits in many areas.

  8. Open Rights Group Newsblog : Blog Archive » Ordnance Survey provides redacted version of its study into its financial organisation Says:

    [...] Source: Free Our Data [...]

  9. Colin Stone Says:

    USA NOAA ENC nautical charts for the USA are free to download, plus free corrections.

Leave a Reply