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Ordnance Survey launches OS OpenData in groundbreaking national initiative

01 April 2010

OS OpenData allows users to download a wide range of mapping and geographic information for free reuse direct to their computers; view maps and boundary information for the whole country; and develop web-map applications using Ordnance Survey’s OS OpenSpace API (Application Programming Interface).

Today’s launch follows the announcement by the Prime Minister on 17 November that some Ordnance Survey mapping would be made freely available as part of the ‘Making Public Data Public’ initiative. The project, championed by web-inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt, the Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Deputy Head (Research) of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, aims to support greater transparency and accountability within Government, improve public services and create new economic and social value.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee comments: "I'm delighted that the Ordnance Survey is releasing this data for free re-use. It will help people make fuller use of other government data on data.gov.uk, as well as stimulating innovation in mapping itself."

Professor Shadbolt adds: "OS OpenData makes critical geographic information freely available to all of us. Our goal has been to facilitate innovation and reuse, to allow everyone the opportunity to enrich this valuable public data.

“The process of consultation has seen ongoing negotiation across government around which data was best for release, and all I would say is that it’s a huge credit to everybody at Ordnance Survey who have been working on this. I’ve been impressed by the willingness to adapt, to extend, to think about new forms of project management and to really step up to the mark, so we’re hugely grateful.”

The release of free data comes after a public consultation document, released on 23 December 2009, set out various long-term strategic options for Ordnance Survey. The consultation period closed on 17 March, and on 31 March, the Department for Communities and Local Government published the Government’s official response. The launch of OS OpenData marks the culmination of this process, delivering greater access to geographic information in Britain than ever before.

Communities Secretary John Denham welcomed the launch of OS OpenData saying: “This shows the UK is at the cutting edge of a digital revolution. The move to free up public data encourages fresh thinking - people re-using information in different and more imaginative ways than may have originally been intended. A seemingly endless stream of new applications and websites continues to show the potential of combining information, creative vision and digital technology.

“Increasing access to Ordnance Survey data will attract a new wave of entrepreneurs and result in new solutions to old problems that will benefit us all. It will also drive a new industry, creating new jobs and driving future growth.”

“The changes signal a wider cultural change in Government based on an assumption that information should be in the public domain unless there is a good reason not to - not the other way around. Greater openness, accountability and transparency in Government will give people greater choice and make it easier for individuals to get more directly involved in issues that matter to them.”

OS OpenData, which is being funded by government, is made up of a range of raster and vector mapping datasets. These include the detailed 1:10 000 scale OS Street View, Boundary-Line, which provides the electoral and administrative geography of the country, and Meridian 2 and Strategi which offer customisable views of Britain’s topography.

The following datasets are included in OS OpenData:

  • OS Street View
  • 1: 50 000 Gazetteer
  • 1: 250 000 Colour Raster
  • OS Locator
  • Boundary-Line
  • Code-Point Open
  • Meridian 2
  • Strategi
  • MiniScale
  • Land-Form PANORAMA
  • OS VectorMap District (available May 2010)

OS VectorMap District, a brand new mid-scale vector dataset which has been specifically designed to display information on the web, will be available from May 2010.

Vanessa Lawrence CB, Director General and Chief Executive of Ordnance Survey, says: “Over the past few months we have been working extremely hard to put in place all the steps which were necessary in order to deliver the Prime Minister’s objective. I believe that OS OpenData delivers on that vision, providing a wide range of Ordnance Survey mapping for reuse and without restriction. I am really looking forward to seeing the public’s response to OS OpenData and watching the creation of new applications and services, all being underpinned by Ordnance Survey data.

“Since the release of the public consultation we have seen the launch of data.gov.uk, with over three thousand datasets being released on the website. As a result many people have requested high quality and well maintained geographic information to enable data from different sources to be linked. I am therefore pleased that Ordnance Survey data, long recognised as world-class, for currency, accuracy and quality, has been identified as having a fundamental role to play in underpinning the future growth of the ‘Smarter Government’ and ‘Making Public Data Public’ initiatives.”

Sir Rob Margetts CBE, Ordnance Survey’s Non-Executive Chairman, adds: “The launch of OS OpenData has been made possible because of the Government’s commitment to providing ongoing funding to support this data package, in order to ensure a sustainable Ordnance Survey for the future, for which I am thankful. This is fundamental to maintaining the quality of the data for which Ordnance Survey is globally renowned.”

To listen to Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt talking about OS OpenData please visit the corporate blog

Users should visit the OS OpenData site to start downloading data.

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