THE UK GOVERNMENT has been advised by a data advocacy group that tech giants such as Apple, Uber and Google should be forced to share mapping data with the public sector.
The Open Data Institute (ODI) said in a report released this week that "data monopolies" are stifling innovation in the UK due to tech giants dominating control of the country's geospatial data, and recommends that, as such, companies need to be kept in check by the Geospatial Commission.
The Geospatial Commission was put together in November last year by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and looks to make Ordnance Survey (OS) MasterMap data open and freely available in a bid to help UK-based small businesses access the data and in turn boost the economy.
The ODI's report calls for evidence to highlight how a number of technologies and sectors are heavily reliant on geospatial data from the public and private sectors from tech such as drones, autonomous vehicles and transport services.
"The UK's geospatial data infrastructure: challenges and opportunities shows how commercial organisations now collect geospatial data quickly and at scale," the report said.
"National mapping agencies and other public bodies need to respond to the increasingly large role played by commercial organisations as collectors, aggregators and stewards of geospatial data."
The report suggests that - to avoid commercial organisations hoarding national geospatial data - and to "avoid commercial organisations hoarding national geospatial data" the Geospatial Commission should do three things.
The first is work with public sector organisations to explore different business models, in particular, those that represent alternatives to paying to use and share data.
The second is to support broader debate around the respective roles of public, private and third sector organisations in maintaining and enhancing the UK's geospatial data infrastructure.
And the third is to consult on whether public sector organisations should have powers to mandate access, use and sharing of data held by large firms.
The ODI's CEO, Jeni Tennison, said that geospatial data should be as open as possible while respecting privacy, national security and commercial confidentiality.
"In many cases, geospatial data can be open data for anyone to access, use and share," she said.
"Our report shows that open geospatial data is necessary to enable innovation and growth in key sectors. To deliver this, the Government must engage and work with private companies, who are creating and collecting geospatial data as part of their businesses, to explore how that data can benefit everyone.
"The UK needs an effective geospatial strategy that looks beyond geospatial data holders in the public sector. Without it, the UK will fail to meet commitments to industries that rely on new technology, such as driverless cars and drone delivery."
The report was published ahead of the UK government's upcoming review of national geospatial strategy, which will look to change legislation in this area. However, it's still not clear exactly how the UK could force such data sharing, or what laws could to introduced to do so. µ
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