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Good news and bad news about UK GIS data

Today, some mixed good news/bad news about the availability of free public data in the UK. As we’ve noted here before (e.g., Privatized Data Woes in Britain and News from abroad: UK open statutes & RFID in Canadian coins and The Semantic Web + Government Information = Serendipitous Reuse) the British government sells limited-use licences to its GIS data on a cost recovery basis. Now, as part of a proposed national geoportal, the UK would “create a single point of entry on the web to data held by public bodies such as local councils, Ordnance Survey (OS), the British Geological Survey and the Environment Agency.” But, as the story says, “A new system will make geospatial information available without charge – yet we’ll still have to pay.”

First, some very good news. Civil servants revealed last week that the British government has begun work on a system to make all the geospatial data it holds on the natural environment available for free inspection and re-use. Now the bad news. In this context, “free” means we will still have to pay to download much key data, especially if it is to be published or otherwise used commercially.

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