Geospatial Commission created to open up government-held mapping data

Government claims better use of location data produced by public bodies could grow the economy by £11bn a year

The Geospatial Commission's first task is to open up Ordnance Survey mapping data. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By Tamsin.Rutter

23 Nov 2017

The government has announced it is to create a new Geospatial Commission that will develop a strategy for releasing more of the location data held by public bodies so businesses can use it to boost economic growth.

The commission will bring together officials from the Land Registry, the Ordnance Survey, the Valuation Office Agency and other government bodies, and its first task is to work out how to give small businesses free access to OS MasterMap data.

Government said the move was recognition of the fact that “location-aware technologies are revolutionising the economy”

It said opening up the data government produces in the course of delivering public services and maintaining laws and regulations can stimulate innovation and growth, by making it easier to find land for house-building, for example.


With new funding of £40m a year for the next two years, the commission’s job is to improve the access to, and links between, and quality of the data produced by public bodies, and to look at making more geospatial data available for free and without restriction.

It also has a role in setting regulation and policy in relation this data, holding public bodies to account for delivering against the geospatial strategy and providing strategic oversight across Whitehall.

Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, chair of the Open Data Institute said that opening up the OS MasterMap was of particular importance. 

“I’m delighted that the UK government is carrying through on the commitment in its manifesto to open up UK geospatial data. 

“In particular, opening up the OS MasterMap will stimulate growth and investment in the UK economy, generate jobs and improve services. It will make it easier to find land for house-building, and enable the development of services that improve vital infrastructure.”

Damian Green, the Cabinet Office minister, said: “The UK leads the way in digital innovation, using it to drive productivity and growth, and deliver the best public services to citizens. 

“The UK has some of the best geospatial data in the world, much of it is held by public bodies, and the new Geospatial Commission will help Britain to turn this valuable government data into tangible benefits such as new jobs and savings.”

Government claims more productive use of location data could be worth £11bn to the economy every year.

The chancellor Philip Hammond announced the new commission in his 2017 Budget alongside a raft of other technology funding and initiatives including the formation of a National Retraining Partnership that will initially focus on increasing digital skills among construction workers, and a Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation to ensure new AI is safe and ethical.

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