Friday, October 5, 2007

Free our Data

This isn't a post about design.

In the UK the Ordnance Survey own mapping data which the can license to users, this contrasts with the US where, as I understand it, mapping data is free. Scott Sinclair defended the OS position in the UK Guardian paper yesterday.

A couple of points are worth making;
- It may cost £110 million a year to keep the OS data up to date but who funded the base map data in the first instance? This makes up most of the data that the OS is licensing. Was it perhaps the UK taxpayers? If so then we are having to buy back from the OS what our grandparents paid for out of their taxes.

- Their are other funding models than licensing, in the US, government data is free, how do they fund the upkeep of their maps?

- Scott complains;
At the same time, any moves we make to widen access, such as launching a new website for people to share walking routes, are simply seen as not good enough. You quote an Ogle Earth blog attacking us for "entering a market niche that is serviced much better and for free by the private sector"
Widening access is good, collect 3 gold stars and go to the top of the class. Now try doing it in a sensible manner. Producing a tool for marking walks that is inferior to those that are widely used now, for free (e.g. Google Earth) is flushing money down the drain.

Back to posts about design next week now I've cleared the holiday backlog of work.

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