The Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) is a collective agreement between OS and the government. Its licence lets public sector organisations in England and Wales access and share OS digital mapping. With the news this week that our Public Sector Mapping Agreement now has over 4,000 members, we went back through the archives to find out first member, Cambridgeshire County Council. Denis Payne at CCC tells us why they were so keen to be involved and how GI has benefited them over the last five years.
CCC became the first member of the PSMA, why do you think that was?
We signed up straight away in April 2011, for us it was a no-brainer. The PSMA is a collective agreement that covers all government, is free at the point of use, gives access to all of the OS data we need and has the scope to work with contractors, other Local Government members and Central Government/Public Sector departments as we need. I think most councils got involved pretty quickly.
How did you hear about the PSMA?
Through standard Local Government/OS channels. You have to remember that the PSMA is the culmination of a number of working agreements between OS and Local/Central Government and we were already involved. Immediately preceding the PSMA for Local Government was the Mapping Services Agreement and as an MSA member we were kept well in touch with what was happening with the PSMA.
How do you use the PSMA?
We exploit all of the tools and opportunities that the PSMA gives us – access to data is critical, of course; but so is the ability to freely share that and our own derived data with contractors. Similarly being able to freely exchange GI with local government (down to Parish & Town level) and central government etc gives us all access to the data we need to serve the public.
We also mustn’t forget PSMA User Representative Group, either, who represent the views of members, to make sure that the PSMA is fit for purpose and able to deliver further efficiencies. PSMA events are great networking opportunities and for knowledge sharing.
Describe how the PSMA has helped you?
It has made the job possible.
How has the PSMA surprised you?
The PSMA has made change possible.
For example, the collaboration between Local Government and Central Government over road networks that will lead to a single co-ordinated view of the UK road network is a real game changer. Without the PSMA that would not have been possible.
In a different vein, the tremendous change in licensing terms that is freeing up the publishing of a wide range of datasets is a game changer for the open data world. That has happened during the life of the PSMA, but I have to believe that the PSMA itself has facilitated that evolution.
I think the biggest surprise was that, in all practical terms for end users, the PSMA has survived budget cuts, largely due to the strong business case of monetary savings and increase use of digital mapping. Ministers are beginning to recognise the tremendous value of GI and ensuring we have the best terms to the public sector – and that is excellent news!
What stand out work have you been able to achieve that you can attribute to being a member of the PSMA?
We’ve had a couple of case studies that we’ve been able to share:
Very early on in the life of the PSMA we presented our work on bringing together government (local, central, fire, police, NHS and some town/parish) property ownership information in order to facilitate effective sharing/re-use of premises – or sale if that made sense. The potential forecast returns were significant. This concept is now being driven at central government level, and adopted elsewhere across the Country.
More recently we’ve looked at staff travel patterns, not so much on getting from A to B, but whether going to B would be better from A or C. A very simple piece of work with audited cash savings and good soft benefits as well.
But being able to effectively do “business as usual” – Public Rights of Way, property/land management, highways, school catchments and pupil allocation etc – all vital to the business.
What would you say to anyone in your position who is not a member?
“Everything happens somewhere” and the oft repeated “80% of local government data has location” (personally I struggle to work out what doesn’t have location) make GI and GIS a no-brainer to run the business. That technology is data hungry, not only the base data that the PSMA delivers from OS, but the ability to garner that from wherever it is held.
The benefits that the PSMA deliver are outstanding and it is free at the point of use. That’s why all Local Government is signed up. But to those who aren’t (and particularly to Town and Parish Councils) having the ability to get access to authoritative, up to date mapping that can be freely used is vital for communications and decision making – so just do it and start getting the benefits!
How could the PSMA be improved?
It is difficult to see improvements to the PSMA as an agreement. It provides an excellent framework.
There are improvements around OS data that would be good to see – delivery in more of the common formats, plans for improved styling of small scale products accelerated etc.
And, as always, licensing is an issue. Tremendous changes have been delivered in that area over the last five years, but some of the administration for contractors is still relatively demanding.
How would your working life be affected if there was no PSMA?
I couldn’t do the job without it – so would have to re-invent it somehow!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I think the work of PURG needs to be flagged. OS have been very positive about its contribution, and I think that PSMA members supporting (and challenging) PURG to do more will improve the PSMA and what it delivers.
Find out more about the PSMA including eligibility, current members and case studies, via our website.