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How Partners can use OS data for developing solutions to Covid-19

The pandemic and the rapid speed at which it spread presented nations and governments around the world with an unexpected new set of problems. Great Britain’s response has been supported by Ordnance Survey’s geospatial data and experts. Here we outline how Partners can get involved.

Geospatial Database supporting government and healthcare

Created in the 1990s and updated daily by OS, the Geospatial Database equips government departments and thousands of organisations with the most accurate picture of Britain to make the best possible decisions. Since the pandemic began, OS and its location data, maps and services has supported more than 200 organisations with insight, support and expertise.

One of the first actions was for OS to form an Emergency Response Team to help the NHS, emergency services and local authorities strategise and plan, including:


  • Supermarkets with large car parks to help with screening and/or testing locations
  • Care homes in an area to identify potential healthcare demand
  • Pharmacists in an area; and crucially using routing tools to identify where “the next nearest” pharmacist is in case of shutdowns or shortages.


  • Route planning of scarce resources or additional transportation to hospitals by local authorities


  • Mapping data to reveal the context for authorities and emergency services e.g. identifying areas with a more vulnerable aging population
  • Green spaces in towns and cities to help with efforts around mental health and physical activity during this difficult time.

Emergency Covid-19 data licence

A special Covid-19 licence, granting access to the Geospatial Database, was made available. The new licence has enabled organisations, developers and individuals to use OS data, free at the point of use, for the specific purpose of supporting the response to Covid-19. The move has seen the rollout of numerous web and mobile app solutions drawing on location data to help support essential solutions at community and national level. In the first six months 70 organisations accessed OS data via the emergency line.

In addition to supporting the government and businesses in their response plans, OS has also inspired the nation to keep active during lockdown.

OS Maps and OS Greenspace data has been supporting the nation to GetOutside safely during lockdown, inspiring thousands of people to discover new adventures on their doorsteps

During lockdown use of OSs digital mapping and outdoor adventure app OS Maps increased by 78%. Views of OS Maps’ National Cycle Layer Network increased by 98% and use of OS Greenspace increased by a staggering 1,728%.

When lockdown measures eased, OS and Natural England created an online tool to help the public stay safe when doing outdoor activities. become a one-stop shop for information and advice on outdoor activities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Supporting schools and students

Ordnance Survey also made its Digimap for Schools service free to students until the end of July 2020, to support home schooling. This meant teachers, parents and students could access the online geospatial mapping service - designed for all school-aged learners to use, plus free teaching resources, linked to the national curriculums of England, Scotland and Wales.

With the pandemic continuing to impact the globe, OS and its Geospatial Database continue to support the nation in its response plans.