Blog by Tim Newman, OS OpenData Product Manager
This month sees us celebrate the seventh anniversary of the launch of OS OpenData. This was a big milestone for us as we released 11 of our mapping and analytical datasets under open licensing. Each day, 150 different people download data from our portal taking, on average, two products each. This adds up to over 400,000 orders placed since the launch of OS OpenData in 2010 and an enormous 1.9 million downloads in total.
In many senses, we’ve always been an open data organisation – we’ve never been far from the ‘open’ end of the ODI’s Data Spectrum, with our data having always been available for “public access” – and yet the move to provide data under open licensing marked the start of a new journey for us as an organisation. This has opened up new users and use-cases and also challenged the way we engage with customers and promote the use of our data.
The last seven years have taught us that simply putting open data ‘out there’ isn’t enough. For open data to have the greatest impact it needs to be sustainable, which requires conversations with end users, and it needs to be managed with the end goal in mind – what are the objectives we’re trying to support? Three of the most common objectives for releasing open data are encouraging innovation, improving transparency and accountability, and empowering citizens, so let’s take a look at those now.
Data-driven innovation will be a huge contributor to future economic growth – creating new products and markets, as well as driving value creation in existing markets. As a data business, we’re excited by these changes but recognise that entrepreneurs and developers, while familiar with technology and coding, aren’t always used to the way the geospatial industry works or the language we use. To support these new users, we launched the Geovation Hub which offers a fresh approach to stimulating growth in the geospatial industry by offering hands on support, education, workspace and development resource in a world-class location. The team help build and grow new ventures that use spatial data and insight to deliver ground-breaking products and services. We’ve seen a number of successful businesses created out of the Geovation Challenge process with a total of £720,000 of funding provided to 34 businesses across diverse sectors – from land management to soil improvement, housing to health.
In the last 18 months Geovation members have raised almost £5 million of private capital with a range of new businesses being supported by the Hub – covering topics as diverse as UAVs, cycle delivery and infrastructure platforms.
Improving transparency and accountability
Geospatial data is “among the most important data in a modern digital economy”, to quote the Government’s recent Transformation Strategy, because it allows you to link other data to a physical location. We have a responsibility to help all areas of Government share their data, so much of which is linked to location.
If the 2010 release of OS OpenData was simply changing the licensing terms of some existing products, our 2015 release of four new products – OS Open Map-Local, OS Open Roads, OS Open Rivers, and OS Open Names – really gave us the opportunity to design products specifically as open data. We set out to extend the value of our open data portfolio so it became more than just a provider of base-mapping context, and looked to structure it so that users could ‘pin’ their data to ours in order to publish it. For example, pollution data about a river can be pinned to OS Open Rivers, and then published in its geospatial context.
In addition, our ‘Presumption to Publish’ has, to date, enabled Government organisations to publish almost 1000 datasets, relating to their core business but based on our premium data, under Open Government Licence terms.
40% of the users of OS OpenData class themselves as ‘personal users’, meaning hundreds of thousands of OS data products have been downloaded by those who would otherwise have been unlikely to access them. To support these consumers of our data, we produce users guides, run masterclasses, and offer support through our customer service centre to ensure that the barriers to data use are as low as possible.
In addition to this huge increase in public engagement with data we’ve enabled, many organisations have sprung up to use our geospatial data for pulling together open data from other sources – the NHS or ONS for example – to allow people to make more informed decisions about where to live, or the public services they access. We’ll be featuring one such company in a later guest blog.
I hope this gives a flavour of the things we’ve learnt and done since the launch of OS OpenData. As OS rapidly evolves to meet the needs of a fast-moving data economy, we will work to ensure that geospatial data, and the initiatives surrounding it, continue to underpin the new and exciting uses of data by business, government and individuals.
Find out more about OS OpenData on our website.
We’ll be sharing case studies and product insights over the coming weeks to celebrate seven years of OS OpenData. Visit our blog for the latest updates.