The Prime Minister and Communities Secretary John Denham will today announce that the public will have more access to Ordnance Survey maps from next year, as part of aGovernment drive to open up data to improve transparency.
Speaking at a seminar on Smarter Government in Downing Street later today, attended by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt, the Prime Minister will set out how the Government andOrdnance Survey, Great Britain’s national mapping agency, will open up its data relating to electoral and local authority boundaries, postcode areas and mid scale mapping information.The Government will consult on proposals to make data from Ordnance Survey freely available so it
can be used for digital innovation and to support democratic accountability. The proposals will harness the world-class expertise that Ordnance Survey has in the production, maintenance and application of high-quality geospatial information. They build on reforms alreadydelivered in the organisation and would ensure that it is right at the heart of digital innovation inBritain. Freely available facts and figures are essential for driving improvements in public services. It puts information, and therefore power, in the hands of the public and the service providers to challenge ordemand innovation in public services.The Prime Minister has set out the importance of an open data policy as part of broader efforts tostrengthen democracy – creating a culture in which Government information is accessible and usefulto as many people as possible in order to increase transparency and accountability, improve publicservices and create new economic and social value.
The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said:
"We live in exciting times; a digital age of high-speed communications and information just a click away that is transforming our daily routines. Technological advances and rising customerexpectations are revolutionising how we all do things. Today’s announcement responds to thedemands for better use and access to data held by government. In this new world, smarter government is not an option but a necessity."Communities Secretary, John Denham, said:"Any public service reforms must be open about what is going on so that those outside it can examine what is happening and to propose alternative ways of doing things if necessary.
"This can only happen if the necessary information and data about what is currently delivered is easily and readily available. Ordnance Survey is a world renowned mapping expert and making thedata they hold about local areas, like council boundaries and postcodes, readily available is animportant first step to a more open government.
"We want people to be able to compare the outcomes and the costs for their own local services with the services delivered elsewhere, and suggest means of improving and driving change that help cutout duplication and waste, and make sure that every pound of public money is working as hard as itcan."
Minister for Digital Britain, Stephen Timms, who has responsibility for the 'Making Public Data Public' initiative, said: "This is an important step in our public data strategy. About 80 per cent of public sector data mentions a place. Making Ordnance Survey data more freely available will encourage more effectiveexploitation of public data by businesses, individuals and community organisations."Making public data available also enables people to reuse it in different and more imaginative ways than may have originally been intended. Estimates suggest that this could generate as much as abillion pounds for the UK economy.For example developers might use this information alongside other Government data about transport,health or education, for services that generate economic and social value.
Openness of data is as important for local government as it is for national government - making people more connected to their community and giving them the tools to demand action on issues thatmatter. Releasing council records in re-usable form could mean that citizens can find out everythingfrom the council accounts to the number of streetlights and community wardens, to when the rubbish is collected and the hedges trimmed.John Denham is working with Stephen Timms and Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt to ensurethat their work embraces local government and local services and that local government responds quickly, consistently and effectively to the challenge.