Until now, the government-owned Ordnance Survey had kept a tight, commercial grip on the rights to use its official maps of the country. The move today means developers are free to create commercial apps that use the data.
‘Father of the web’ Sir Tim Berners Lee has been at the forefront of the push for open data in the UK, having been given clearance by the Prime Minister to push through whatever was needed to make it happen.
Other cities are yet to follow London, the government and the Ordnance Survey’s lead and there are a number of other glaring holes in the data that is currently freely available. The opening up of postcode data is proving a controversial battle while today’s mapping announcement omits walking maps. The BBC quotes an Ordnance Survey spokesperson as saying this was because opening up walking map data “would undermine the continued provision of a nationwide paper map series… It is in the national interest to have a nationwide paper map.”
We don’t see the logic behind that argument as there’s nothing to stop walking maps being available in paper form along with the data also being available to developers to use in other ways. Still, today’s move is a major win for the open data movement in the UK.