By Aileen Buckley, Mapping Center Lead
For quite some time, the United States has been unique in that most of its federal government data, including GIS data, has been free to the general public. Now, for the first time in 250 years, the Ordnance Survey of Great Britian (OSGB), has also decided to release, for free, some of its data. In this transcript of a speech given on March 22, 2010 on “Building Britain’s Digital Future”, Prime Minister Gordon Brown states, “I can confirm that from 1st April, we will be making a substantial package of information held by ordnance survey freely available to the public, without restrictions on re-use.” (There are also some interesting references to other data sets that will be made available as well.)
The Ordnance Survey, Great Britain’s national mapping agency, maintains map data at several resolutions for map products at different scales. The free data they are releasing relates to their mid-scale map products at 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 map scale. The data are avaialable on the OS OpenData Web site at: http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/opendata/index.html. The majority of the data can be downloaded, although some has to be ordered for delivery by DVD. The OS OpenData products include:
- 1:50,000 Scale Gazetteer – place names for “airports, farms, hills, woodlands, commons and other places, including over 42 000 towns and settlements with coordinates to 1 km resolution”
- 1:250,000 Scale Colour Raster – “roads, railways and other key features … as either full national coverage or as England, Scotland or Wales separately
- Boundary-Line™ – 1:10,000 scale boundaries … of all levels of electoral and administrative boundaries, from district, wards and civil parishes (or communities) up to parliamentary, assembly and European constituencies
- Code-Point Open – postcode units, each of which have a precise geographical location … for approximately 1.7 million postcode units in England, Scotland and Wales. Each postcode unit, such as KY12 8UP or PO14 2RS, contains an average of fifteen adjoining addresses
- Land-Form PANORAMA® Contours (1:50,000) – height information in the form of contours, spot heights, break lines, coastline, lakes, ridges and form lines
- Meridian™ 2 (1:50,000) – mid-scale digital representation of Great Britain’s … Communication and Topographic themes
- MiniScale® (1:1,000,000) – for use within desktop graphic applications to provide simple backdrop mapping covering the whole of Great Britain
- OS Locator – a fully searchable national gazetteer of road names … does not contain any road geometry although it does contain coordinates to create a minimum bounding rectangle encompassing the extent of the road referenced in the gazetteer
- Strategi® (1,250,000) – derived from the Ordnance Survey 1:250 000 scale topographic database … geographical features within Strategi are represented as vector (point and line) data
- OS Street View® – a scanned image of street-level mapping that can be combined with other data
Not surprisingly, some of the most desirable and useful data that the OSGB produces and maintains are not being released, such as the large scale (1:1,250 and 1:2,500) MasterMap data which includes vector representations of buildings and land parcels for the UK. Nonetheless, the current release provides some excellent opportunities for developers to create products without the huge financial overheads that have prevailed to date.
Note that in May OSGB will be releasing OS VectorMap District, “a new mid-scale product within the OS VectorMap family available in both raster and vector formats. It is designed to be a flexible and customisable product specifically designed for use on the web.” At this point, there are no plans to release any further data, although all the datasets will be maintained and updated.
Kudos to OSGB for making these data available — many cartographers and map makers will find these resources invaluable!