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OS free data splurge lacks public sector licensing deal

Wander round in circles till UK.gov finds a direction

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The mapping outfit's product manager Joe Greenwood told El Reg that the OS has been pushing for a "single framework for all the public sector where information will be freely shared".

At present there are a mixture of contracts within government that have muddled the process somewhat. And as of now, that lack of consensus remains.

"There’s not much ambiguity within the central government agreement, nor within the Scotland agreement and there are clauses within the local government agreement," he explained.

"It’s a patchwork of agreements that have built up across the public sector as it stands today."

As for the exclusion of the Royal Mail's PAF database, which contains some very tasty information indeed for web developers across the nation, Greenwood said the OS remained a humble servant commercial reseller of the state-owned postal service.

But doesn't that relationship hamstring today's OS datasets announcement?

"There’s a significant step forward in seeing the release of CodePoint - all 1.7m postcodes, which provides very accurate locations and enables a whole variety of apps, that are particularly important in statistics. But none of the government data released is at a personal or address level," he said.

"CodePoint is the right level for what government wants to achieve, it’s not in the business of opening up personal address level information, hence the pressure for the underlying database [PAF] to be opened up, and I think that pressure will remain."

As for funding of the data that the government has opened up today, Greenwood agreed with Denham that the OS will take a hit in the short-term; however, at the same time the organisation projects revenues of around £115m this year, which is similar to 2009's figures.

But for those coders out there keen to know how the government will licence OS data over the long-term, be it free or otherwise, today isn't the day to get an answer. Developers will have to sit it out for a year before an agreement is actually reached.

"Government is deliberately choosing to make a move into what has been a commercial space to open the data up wider on the basis that we don’t quite know exactly what the outcome will be," said Greenwood.

"So in that sense there will be some, initially at least, who might be adversely affected by that, and it’s a case of seeing how it plays through the market in terms of impact." ®

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