I have just returned to Ottawa after attending a GITA Board of Directors meeting in California. I chanced to chat with Daniel Shannon of Telus about some interesting macroeconomic reports that I had come across. In Australia the CRC-SI has estimated the contribution of spatial information to the national economy, the reduction in the contribution to the national economy arising from restrictions on access to spatial information, and the potential contribution of spatial information to the economy. In the UK a much more restricted study estimated the benefit to the UK economy of less restricted access to Ordnance Survey (OS) data.
The report The Value of Spatial Information, The impact of modern spatial information technologies on the Australian economy was prepared for the CRC for Spatial Information & ANZLIC – the Spatial Information Council by ACIL Tasman in March of 2008, estimated the impact of spatial information on a number of key indicators of the Australian economy for 2006-2007. The report estimates that the spatial information sector contributed between $6.4 billion and $12.6 billion to the gross domestic product (GDP), which represents between 0.6% and 1.2% of the GDP.
Secondly, it estimates that restrictions on access to spatial data reduced productivity in some economic sectors by between 5% and 15% which could have reduced the GDP by about 7% in 2006-2007.
Thirdly, it estimates that with the right policies the contribution of the spatial information sector to the national economy in the medium term had the potential to be up to 50% higher than in 2006-2007. In other words, instead of a contribution of about 1%, the spatial information sector could have contributed 1.5% of GDP.
The report Models of Public Sector Information Provision via Trading Funds by Professors David Newbery, Lionel Bently, and Rufus Pollock all of Cambridge University analyzes six UK trading funds, which for people unfamiliar with this term, are companies wholly owned by the UK Government, but which are expected to be run as a private company and generate a return to their single share holder. In Canada the closest thing is a Crown Corporation. The six that were studied are the the Met Office, Ordnance Survey (OS), the UK Hydrographic Office, the Land Registry, Companies House and the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency.
The study was released in February, 2008. It estimates the benefits to the UK economy if spatial data were available at no cost instead of the current relatively high cost as compared to the US, for example. The study estimates that the gross benefits to the UK economy would be around £168 million a year while a government subsidy to the OS of something between £12 million and £85 million would be required. Overall this implies a net benefit to the UK economy of between £83 to £156 million. As Ed Parsons, ex-CTO of the OS, points out, turning the OS into purely government agency has risks, witness the USGS, but there are other alternatives.