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Ordnance Survey refocuses its business strategy

April 23, 2009

Ordnance Survey has, along with a number of other “assets” (bits of government that don’t operate in a straightforward ‘public money in, public service out’ model) been under review by the Treasury.  OS is a Trading Fund, which means it is legally obliged to make money from the information it gathers and makes sense of – geographical information, in this case.  There have been complaints over the past few years that, as the public sector is a big user of this information, selling data to them becomes a big money-go-round, with public money being recycled through the agency, minus all the costs of administering it.  Some have also complained that OS’s licensing system is unnecessarily restrictive; an example being that an authority or agency buys some GI data; adds their own information to make a lovely map of, say, crime in a particular area; and if the authority or agency ever decides not to keep paying for a license from OS, or if they buy data from another supplier, they are no longer allowed to use that map they made, on pain of prosecution.  These are all points made by the Association of Regional Observatories in the response we made to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee when they looked at this issue (here’s the ARO page – scroll to “Ordnance Survey”).

Now HMT has published its review, in which it says:

“The OEP has concluded so far that Ordnance Survey needs to be more customer-focused and commercially driven. The Government is therefore publishing a new commercial strategy for the Ordnance Survey on their website.”

(HMT review, including information on British Waterways, the Met office, the Land Registry and the Dartford-Thurrock river crossing).

Ordnance Survey has published its new business strategy on its website, which includes a number of positive changes, such as a review of their licensing arrangements, a commitment to opening up information to enable others to innovate and add value, and supporting information sharing in the public sector.  Unsurprisingly, though, in the current climate, it also commits to continuing efficiency savings, building the brand and enabling commercial operators to sell more OS data, and ‘building a sustainable business model’, which I think means making a longer term commitment to working out how to make money from geographic data.

All very interesting – for another view on things, check out Ed Parsons’ thoughts (Ed being Geospatial Technologist at Google, and former OS senior bod).

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Warren Pearce permalink*
    April 23, 2009 1:43 pm

    P47 of the Treasury report threatens unspecified ‘further reforms’ if OS don’t get delivery going in 6-12 months. The development of OS OpenSpace is interesting; although OS have fallen so far behind Google Maps and Multimap in the public eye, the quality of their product combined with a more open approach might pay dividends.

    Guardian article on the report here

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