Free Our Data: the blog

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

OS first response to FOI questions: who did it talk to, and who helped? (Updated)

Ordnance Survey responded today to our FOI request. The redacted financial study is expected later today, but first here are the organisations that it talked to in deciding whose model to adopt. Or not adopt.

Here’s the text of the FOI response.

The report about which these question were raised, was commissioned by the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Iain Wright MP, and formed part of an input to the Trading Funds Assessment undertaken by the Shareholder Executive and HM Treasury.

1. Who or what was the “outside help”?

With regard to the International Comparison of Geographical Information Trading Models Study, outside help was provided by senior officials of those Institutions contacted.

In the case of the United States of America, as senior officials of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) were unavailable, Mr. David Cowen, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of South Carolina, kindly provided us with an in-depth overview of the state of public sector GI data in the United States, including USGS. Mr Cowan is a former chair of the Mapping Science Committee of the United States National Research Council and is chair of the National Research Council’s Committee for the study of Land Parcel Databases.

The document was also reviewed by an internationally recognised expert in Geographical Information and National Mapping who agreed with the analysis and conclusions.

2. Which “equivalent organisations” were examined for the study?

There are no wholly equivalent organisations to Ordnance Survey, given its range of scales of mapping and other activities. Hence a representative sample of eight National Mapping Agencies or their closest equivalents were examined during the study. The sample included organisations with a wide range of data pricing policies: free, partial cost recovery (recovery of data dissemination costs), total cost recovery (recovery of data collection plus dissemination costs) and market price (cost recovery plus trading margin).

The overseas examples studied were:

Australia PSMA (Public Sector Mapping Agencies)
Canada Natural Resources Canada
France: IGN (Institut Geographique National)
Netherlands Kadaster
Norway Statens Kartverk
New Zealand LINZ (Land Information New Zealand)
Sweden Landmäteriet
United States USGS (United States Geological Survey) – via Mr David Cowan.

3. Which agencies did OS examine for the study?

IGN, Kadaster, Statens Kartverk and Landmäteriet have Agency status within their respective Governments.

4. Which agencies did the “outside help” examine for the study?

As indicated above, the outside help for the International Comparisons Study was provided by senior officials from the National Mapping Agencies examined in the Study, together with Mr Cowan and the internationally recognised expert.

And finally…

Please note that your enquiry has been processed to Freedom of Information guidelines. To the extent that the public interest (section 17) applies, we have determined that in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest has been met with the full provision of all information in this instance.

Update: Steven Feldman, who has been consulting for OS on how to get wider adoption of its OpenSpace API on its GeoVation initiative. Quoth Feldman (in the comments below): “We expect to go public on what we have planned for GeoVation in the next couple of weeks, watch my blog or mail me if you want to get a mail from me when we kick off.” (We apologise for the earlier error.)

, says he is not the “internationally recognised expert” mentioned by OS. We were going to ask but he beat us to it. The search goes on…

9 Responses to “OS first response to FOI questions: who did it talk to, and who helped? (Updated)”

  1. WIlliam Allbrook Says:

    I was quite interested to see reference to an internationally recognised expert. I imagine like many experts he/she will have had well informed opinions. It would have been very easy for OS to choose one that was onside rather than one who might rigourously question the current trading fund status. This is surely why this person remains anonymous. Would anyone other than me be curious to reveal his or her true identity?

  2. Steve Chilton Says:

    I would suggest it may well have been Steven Feldman:

  3. Charles Arthur Says:

    @Steve (Chilton): that link is dead – could you tell us what it said, or check the link?

  4. Anthony Cartmell Says:

    The post that possibly gives the game away about the “independant consultant” features the recent video summary of the Ordnance Survey’s Business Strategy Launch event:

  5. Steve Chilton Says:

    Link actualy works for me – it goes to a comments page on giscussions so is same reply as Anthony really

  6. James Cutler Says:

    Unfair, incorrect aspersions I’m afraid. from Twitter: StevenFeldman – “I am not an internationally renowned expert: Contrary to some of the comments on Free Our Data” – some merriment around the ‘an’ by other twitterers but certainly not ‘the’

  7. Steven Feldman Says:

    Just wanted to correct another minor error in the addendum to this post.

    I am not consulting for OS on how to get wider adoption of the OpenSpace API, I am working on their GeoVation initiative. We expect to go public on what we have planned for GeoVation in the next couple of weeks, watch my blog or mail me if you want to get a mail from me when we kick off.

    Just in case you were wondering I haven’t a clue who “the” expert is.


  8. Jonathan Raper Says:

    I’d suggest the international expert could have been Max Craglia at the European Commission ( he’d be well qualified and is well known to the OS.

    Incidentally, I’ll take the opportunity to say that the expert is not me!


  9. Charles Arthur Says:

    @Jonathan – why do you think it’s him?

    By the way, I’m not the international expert either. Although I am Spartacus.

Leave a Reply