The Open Data Institute has called on the UK government and big tech firms such as Google and Apple to work together to publish their map data, in an effort to boost the development of geospatial technology.
The callout is the result of two papers published by ODI, examining the importance of geospatial data. The first is its response to the Geospatial Commission’s call for evidence towards the UK’s Geospatial Strategy due for publication in 2019. The second is a report, titled, ‘The UK’s geospatial data infrastructure: challenges and opportunities’, produced for an innovation project exploring the challenges faced by the UK’s geospatial data users, and the opportunities to support the publishing and use of openly licensed geospatial data. Both papers were launched at the ODI Summit 2018.
The report and response to the call for evidence both highlight how a number of technologies and sectors are heavily reliant on geospatial data from the public and private sectors. These include autonomous and connected vehicles that use geospatial data in services such as in-car navigation and driver assistance systems like lane departure warnings, parking proximity, and cruise control; drones which rely on geospatial data for geofencing, and transport services that use geospatial data to help people find their way to work, model traffic flows and manage highway resources.
ODI believe that national mapping agencies and other public bodies need to respond to the increasingly large role played by commercial organisations as collectors, aggregators and stewards of geospatial data.
The reports recommend that to avoid commercial organisations hoarding national geospatial data, the Geospatial Commission should work with public sector organisations to explore different business models – in particular those that represent alternatives to paying to use and share data. The Commission should also support broader debate around the respective roles of public, private and third sector organisations in maintaining and enhancing the UK’s geospatial data infrastructure, and consult on whether public sector organisations should have powers to mandate access, use and sharing of data – in defined ways – held by large firms.
Jeni Tennison, CEO of the ODI, said: “Like other parts of our data infrastructure, we believe that geospatial data should be as open as possible while respecting privacy, national security and commercial confidentiality. In many cases, geospatial data can be open data for anyone to access, use and share.
“Our report shows that open geospatial data is necessary to enable innovation and growth in key sectors. To deliver this, the Government must engage and work with private companies, who are creating and collecting geospatial data as part of their businesses, to explore how that data can benefit everyone.
“The UK needs an effective geospatial strategy that looks beyond geospatial data holders in the public sector. Without it, the UK will fail to meet commitments to industries that rely on new technology, such as driverless cars and drone delivery.”