Open Map Data?

From Peter Suber’s Blog:

Mike Cross, Ordnance Survey in the dock again, The Guardian, October 26, 2006. Excerpt:

On one side of an electoral boundary, people might buy sun-blushed tomatoes; on the other, economy baked beans. Retailers like to know such things, so data from the 2001 census is of great commercial interest – and also the subject of the latest controversy in the Free Our Data debate.
Last week, the Association of Census Distributors filed a complaint against a state-owned entity, Ordnance Survey, over the conditions placed on the re-use of intellectual property in census data. It is the second time this year that the national mapping agency has been the subject of a complaint to the government’s Office of Public Sector Information…..
Technology Guardian’s Free Our Data campaign proposes that the best way to avoid such disputes is for basic data sets collected at taxpayers’ expense to be made freely available for any purpose (subject to privacy and national security constraints). While this would involve more direct funding for agencies such as Ordnance Survey, the economy as a whole would gain. At the moment, says [Peter Sleight of Target Marketing Consultancy], the national good is compromised because of a single trading fund’s commercial needs.

For non-UK readers: the Guardian is a liberal national newspaper (sharing with this blog a reputation for typos). The Ordnance Survey is the Government organization responsible for UK maps.
In or monthly CB2 meetings where we work out how to put the world to rights freedom of map data is a frequent topic. I regard maps as “open data” – they are part of the public infrastructure of existence. It was interesting that at the UK eScience (==Grid, == cyberinfrastructure) a lot of the applications were map based and almost all used GoogleMap API. So it makes absolute sense for maps to be part of the Open Data definition.
It’s also good to see a newspaper championing freedom – we can almost prove it makes economic sense to remove this part of the anticommons.

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4 Responses to Open Map Data?

  1. Noel OBoyle says:

    Are you familiar with projects like Open Street Map? Maybe Jim could carry a GPS next time he joins the Hash Hourse Harriers.

  2. pm286 says:

    (1) Yes – I believe that quite a lot has been done by cycle couriers.

  3. ojd20 says:

    (1) Good idea, Noel, although the data might be a bit skewed towards this area

  4. ojd20 says:

    To play devil’s advocate for a moment: Too often the focus is on opening the data, and too little on the cost of collection and dissemination. A bit closer to home than maps, an OS analogue is the NERC. Essential research and monitoring, and they charge for their data in order to sustain their activities because they don’t receive enough central government funding to do so. So a lot of this data hasn’t been wholly paid for by the public. We want the data to be open, so perhaps we have to think whether we need to buy it back, and if so, how?

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