Ordnance Survey, other gov databases move to Biz dept
Public Data Corporation begins to morph under Cable
Whitehall announced yesterday that it had shunted the Ordnance Survey, Met Office and Land Registry agencies over to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
The OS office had previously operated under the Department for Communities and Local Government but has been shifted, along with the Met Office and Land Registry, as part of the Cabinet Office's plans to debut the so-called Public Data Corporation later this year.
BIS, whose Secretary of State is Lib Dem MP Vince Cable, isn't exactly considered a champion of the open data movement, so the fact that it has taken control of Blighty's mapping agency will come as a surprise to some.
In January this year, the government confirmed that data bodies would be squished into one organisation to make yet-to-be-disclosed datasets available to the public.
However, the government said at the time that it would only "make more data free at the point of use, where this is appropriate and consistent with ensuring value for taxpayers' money".
Earlier this month, the government promised to publish various datasets on the National Health Service, schools, criminal courts and transport online. But it failed to make any mention of the Public Data Corporation (PDC), a framework for which is expected to be announced in the autumn.
Answers to questions that include how many more agencies might fall under the PDC banner, what data will be published, how it will be made available and what the full licensing terms will be, won't be provided by the government until later this year.
Each agency issued statements to reassure customers and taxpayers that their quasi-independent status as individual trading funds wasn't under threat. Instead, they preferred to say that collaboration would improve.
Last year, Ordnance Survey staff moved into new purpose-built digs in Southampton. As this reporter noted at the time, the organisation began sharing a Gloucester-based data centre with the Land Registry – from which it leased the space – in October 2009.
And now that it has settled into its new office, it is possible that space could be shared with other government agencies, such as, for example, with some Land Registry or Met Office workers.
"The building is designed so we can expand or shrink, and there won't be a problem letting out a wing that can be self-contained," the Ordnance Survey's biz sales and support head John Kimmance said in December 2010.
A consultation period focusing on PDC data policy is expected to kick off at some point over the summer. ®
Whilst they are at it
They can put the Postcode data out for free too. The Post Office have also been charging a fortune for something we've already paid for.
What would be REALLY useful would be releasing for free (because the tax payer has already paid for it once) mapping and weather data. This would be infinitely more useful than the usual obscure data sets like "Distribution and ethic origin of disadvantaged lesbian wheelchair-bound social workers by postcode" which, strangely enough, not many people at all could give a gnats nuts about.
...but, of course, it won't happen, will it?
The availability of high-quality nautical charts in Europe is scandalous. Mariners are forced to pay through the nose for data that taxpayers have already paid their local HGO to collect, only for it to be punted to a cartel of corporations who package it in any number of incompatible proprietary and encrypted formats in order to fleece a captive market, and to promote vendor lock-in to their partner ECDIS system integrators.
The NOAA somehow manage to provide S-57 vector charts for the whole of North America for free - why can't the European HGOs man up and do the same. For an obvious cause like maritime safety, anything else is a disgrace.
As it is, it's actually far cheaper to bring up an Amazon EC2 farm to crack the S-63/Navionics/CMap chart encryption than it is to pay these conmen.