Government opens up MasterMap data

Five Ordnance Survey datasets to become available through APIs, with the possibility of future release of property and street identifiers

The Government’s new Geospatial Commission is to work with national mapping agency Ordnance Survey on making data from the latter’s OS MasterMap more freely available for individuals and businesses.

The move was announced as part of the prime minister’s London Tech Week round table, with a forecast it will boost the UK economy by at least £130 million per year.

It is also a step towards developing a more open geospatial data infrastructure for the UK.

Five datasets within OS MasterMap – the Topography Layer, Greenspace Layer, Highways Network, Water Network Layer and Path Network – will be made available through a suite of APIs to be developed by Ordnance Survey and under the Open Government Licence. They will be available for free up to a threshold of transactions through the APIs.

In addition, new guidance will be issued on using the data, including to support local authorities in publishing more derived data as open data.

David LidingtonChancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington (pictured), said: “Opening up OS MasterMap underlines this Government’s commitment to ensuring the UK continues to lead the way in digital innovation. Releasing this valuable government data for free will help stimulate innovation in the economy, generate jobs and improve public services.

“Location-aware technologies - using geospatial data - are revolutionising our economy. From navigating public transport to tracking supply chains and planning efficient delivery routes, these digital services are built on location data that has become part of everyday life and business.

“The newly available data should be particularly useful to small firms and entrepreneurs to realise their ideas and compete with larger organisations, encouraging greater competition and innovation.”

Step in journey

Neil Ackroyd, interim chief executive officer of Ordnance Survey, described it “another step on Ordnance Survey’s open data journey”.

OS MasterMap data already supports emerging technologies such as driverless vehicles, 5G and connected cities.

While the announcement has been conveyed as an advance for the cause of opening up public sector data, it received only a lukewarm welcome from the chief executive officer of the Open Data Institute (ODI).

“It is a step in the right direction, allowing flexible use of open property boundary data,” she said. “Some other data will be freely accessible, but this won’t satisfy users requiring large amounts of data or more flexibility.”

She added that the ODI is looking at how to encourage the publication of more open geospatial data by government and businesses, and hopes that the Geospatial Commission will be given the power “to create a fairer and more sustainable data ecosystem”.

Plans for identifiers

The Government also unveiled plans for the Geospatial Commission to work with GeoPlace, the Local Government Association (LGA) and Scotland’s Improvement Service on the possibility of opening up unique property reference numbers (UPRNs) and unique street reference numbers (USRNs), together with the respective geometries, under the Open Government Licence.

It said that if this happens it has to protect the integrity and authority of the identifiers to ensure public authorities and businesses continue to feel confident in using them within their own products and services.

The move is aimed at making it easier for organisations to publish their own data created from elements of the newly opened data.

Nick Chapallaz, managing director of GeoPlace – a joint venture between Ordnance Survey and the LGA –  said: "These unique identifiers automate data sharing - delivering better services and outcomes for businesses and citizens. We welcome the Government's commitment to supporting the wider public sector use of definitive addressing and streets information.

“The objective is that no public sector address appears without a UPRN and no street without a USRN."

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0