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ODI backs four local open geospatial data projects


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Open Data Institute (ODI) has announced funding for four local government projects to explore new approaches to publishing and using open geospatial data.

Each has received £15,000-25,000 for research to conclude by the end of March. The ODI will provide guidance, review and assistance to the project teams.

Under one of the projects, Falkirk Council will work with geographic data sharing specialist thinkWhere to develop an open source mapping platform to present data from OpenStreetMap – a free wiki world map – to help community groups and citizens. The ODI cited the example of showing locations of food banks and community kitchens.

The goal is to help community groups maintain data on OpenStreetMap rather than maintaining separate service directories.

A consortium led by Oxfordshire Council has received support to develop an open source cycle route audit tool to assess the routes and inform local transport policy.

Another project is led by Stockport Council and Open Data Manchester and involves crowdsourcing data on accessibility issues, drawing on the experience of people with impairments. Named Mapping Mobility Stockport, it is aimed at producing a new accessibility map of the area.

Fourthly, Bath & North East Somerset Council is working with geospatial specialist Geoxphere to create an open data infrastructure for geospatial data. They are working with local open data group Bath: Hacked to explore issues around licensing and aim to share the lessons with other councils.


Leigh Dodds, head of data infrastructure at the ODI, said: “These four projects show the diverse application of geospatial data, from assessing cycling routes, to mapping community kitchens. They will explore collaborative approaches to data collection, management and use that to draw on resources and support from across the UK’s geospatial data infrastructure, including the Ordnance Survey, OpenStreetMap communities and local open data groups.

“Research conducted as part of the ODI’s R&D project to unlock the benefits of open geospatial data highlighted that local government often struggles to release openly licensed data, limiting its ability to work with local communities, start-ups and SMEs to create innovative products and services.”

During the late summer the ODI ran a short survey to learn more about how local government in the UK is engaging in the publication and use of geospatial data, and their use of open source geographic information system (GIS) tools and applications.

From 38 responses, it found about a third were publishing more geospatial data than is mandated by INSPIRE – the EU directive aimed at creating a spatial data infrastructure – and almost one in five had not heard of Ordnance Survey’s ‘presumption to publish’ approach, which encourages opening up more derived data for re-use.

It also showed that most had received requests to release geospatial data from either local small businesses or start-ups.

Image by Jan Ainali (own work), CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

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