As part of the Prime Minister’s London Tech Week roundtable, the UK Government has announced that key parts of the OS MasterMap will be made openly available for the public and businesses to use. OS MasterMap is the definitive source of highly-detailed geographic data of Great Britain. The government estimates that this will boost the UK economy by at least £130m each year, as innovative companies and startups use the data. The release of OS MasterMap data is one of the first projects to be delivered by the new Geospatial Commission which I blogged about recently.
This has been a long journey. Many have argued for years that opening Mastermap would benefit the UK economy. A study released in February, 2008 estimated 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 estimated 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 implied a net benefit to the UK economy of between £83 to £156 million. There are risks associated with making the Ordnance Survey, the semi-commercial organization responsible for Mastermap a purely government agency, witness the USGS in the U.S., but there is no doubt that open data has benefited the U.S. economy and other economies.