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UK.gov folds over Ordnance Survey map data

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The government has released some Ordnance Survey mapping data for free re-use to British citizens today, in response to public consultation that got underway in December last year.

It said it would make a handful of OS datasets freely available for use by the likes of developers wanting to mash up data for UK websites.

The Ordnance Survey will pick up the tab for maintenance of the data to "ensure that core reference information is freely available while protecting the ability of all market participants, including the Ordnance Survey, to add value," it said.

However, whether such a move will satisfy private firms that work with public sector data remains to be seen. Others have welcomed today's launch of what the government has dubbed OS OpenData.

"I'm delighted that the Ordnance Survey is releasing this data for free re-use. It will help people make fuller use of other government data on data.gov.uk, as well as stimulating innovation in mapping itself," said über web nice guy Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

In response to a parliamentary question tabled on Tuesday, Barbara Follet MP, Labour minister of state on regional affairs, confirmed that the OS government budget for 2010/2011 currently stands at £14.8m.

The department for communities and local government published UK.gov's response to the public consultation last night.

“Increasing access to Ordnance Survey data will attract a new wave of entrepreneurs and result in new solutions to old problems that will benefit us all. It will also drive a new industry, creating new jobs and driving future growth,” said communities secretary John Denham.

“The changes signal a wider cultural change in government based on an assumption that information should be in the public domain unless there is a good reason not to - not the other way around. Greater openness, accountability and transparency in government will give people greater choice and make it easier for individuals to get more directly involved in issues that matter to them.”

Here's the full list of OS data set loose by the government:

• OS Street View
• 1: 50 000 Gazetteer
• 1: 250 000 Colour Raster
• OS Locator • Boundary-Line
• Code-Point Open
• Meridian 2
• Strategi
• MiniScale
• Land-Form PANORAMA
• OS VectorMap District (available in May 2010)

Meanwhile, Harry Metcalf, co-founder of UK postcode lookup service ErnestMarples.com, welcomed today's data release. He had urged the government to open up more of its OS datasets after his own site was forced to shut down last autumn following a legal threat from the Royal Mail.

But he told The Register that it was unclear whether the government plans to add derived data clauses in the licence for free use.

"I'm assured there won't be," he told us. "That licence, though, will answer these questions."

Details about which we'll bring you later today. ®

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