Geospatial Commission Workshop at ODI Leeds

Feedback on OS MasterMap sought at geospatial user workshops


Following the government’s announcement to form a Geospatial Commission with the initial task “to establish how to open up freely the OS MasterMap data”, workshops are being run in several cities across the UK. These are run by ODI Nodes on behalf of the Cabinet Office, with the aim of finding out first hand the challenges that small businesses, startups and other data users face when using Ordnance Survey MasterMap. Gregory Marler –  OpenStreetMap United Kingdom CIC Director – travelled to the Leeds workshop last Friday. Here is his take on the day.

I found out just in time to travel down to Leeds for a Friday morning to try my best at representing OpenStreetMap UK and it’s members. The event was facilitated by Paul Connell from the ODI Leeds node, and there was a genuine desire to gather feedback. Even outside London, the event was well attended with the delegates representing an exciting list of company names. It was however disappointing to observe that out of 18 attendees, the only woman was one of the event organisers, one point that the organisers will need to address if they are to succeed in their aim of getting a cross-section of feedback.

With the use of post-it notes on walls, we discussed how we currently use OS MasterMap and geospatial data, we built a timeline of “how we got here”, and we looked into the future at what “heaven” might look like. On the flip side, we also looked at what a “hell” would like, before wrapping up with a session on what could be done immediately.

I wanted to keep OpenStreetMap in the conversation, and I didn’t need to as it came up in plenty of conversations around the room. Many people use OpenStreetMap because there are less barriers such as technical/knowledge difficulties and legal limitations. The timelines focused on how changes in technology and sharing gave birth to changes or new data, putting geographic information in the hands of more people. When it came to “what could happen tomorrow” I partially drew on parts from our “strategic policy asks” something that we would love to further discuss with the Geospatial Commission.

It is good to see the Cabinet Office and ODI engaging with the industry to gather feedback, starting with these workshops. We do hope that engagement with stakeholders continues throughout the process and is not seen as a one off. It would also be good to see the Cabinet Office and ODI publish their notes from this workshop and the others.

As OpenStreetMap UK CIC, we’d like to ensure that the views of the UK’s diverse OpenStreetMap community of mappers, consumers, map-lovers, businesses, and volunteers continue to be heard. On Tuesday there will be a workshop in Bristol whilst Cardiff’s workshop will take place on Wednesday. You can also share you views with us via our our Loomio thread, the other communication methods and in May at our AGM. We are happy to collate feedback and pass it on.