Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

Do We Need a National Mapping Agency?

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There have been a thought-provoking series of posts about the relevance of the Ordnance Survey. It’s good that people are questioning the need for a national mapping agency, but I think the answer has to be a resounding YES. The OpenGeoData blog doesn’t.

To quote:

“Me, I just don’t care about the Ordnance Survey. It’s not “evil” or “immoral”, it just doesn’t matter. I think that Open Maps can do better, and I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is by working on Open Maps, but it’s not a crusade it’s just a superior way of working together and generating maps.”

Superior is an interesting choice of word in this context. It’s perfectly fair for OpenGeoData to think that Openstreetmap suits his mapping needs, but to call it superior, and to say that the Ordnance Survey is irrelevant is a little short-sighted. The Ordnance Survey, and any national mapping agency, have a responsibility far beyond creating maps for the general population to use to get from A to B, and I wonder if Openstreetmap honestly feel that they are ready to provide disaster response mapping, or have the resources in place to ensure that their coverage of the entire country is current to within one year or less.

I like Openstreetmap a lot, and really enjoyed the talk that Steve Coast gave at OKCon last weekend, and I think they have a useful place in the free data debate, but I don’t see them as a replacement for our national mapping requirements. In my opinion, pretending that they are simply dilutes the fight to change the Ordnance Survey’s licensing policy.

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