Headlines: August 9th, 2010

An agreement that gives councils and public bodies free access to government mapping data will unleash a wave of fresh thinking and innovation in public services, according to Local Government Minister Grant Shapps.

The Public Sector Mapping Agreement will allow all parts of the public sector in England and Wales to access national mapping data for free, which when combined with digital technology will pave the way for an increase in new applications and websites that can improve public services.

This data will support a diverse range of services from the digital television switch over to reducing ambulance response times and improving school bus routes. The new agreement will allow councils to work more collaboratively with private sector contractors and charities to deliver better, more innovative and more efficient local services.

The move forms part of the Government’s pledge to open up officially held information, so councils and public bodies can easily and efficiently improve local services and local people can see at the touch of a button how their local services are doing.

Chris Holcroft, Director and Chief Executive of the Association of Geographical Information said: “The Public Sector Mapping Agreement offers enormous opportunity to help maximise the use of geographic information for the benefit of the nation.” He added: “Breaking down barriers and better enabling data sharing, the Agreement should help the public sector make better and more transparent decisions and allocate its resources more efficiently, saving time and money. In addition it should stimulate and diversify private sector opportunities to develop related geographic information products and services.”

The Agreement will provide free access for public sector bodies to all the national mapping agency’s core datasets from April 2011. The new agreement will replace costly contracts that many parts of the public sector have with Ordnance Survey, and triple the number of bodies that have access to the mapping data.

Economic analysis shows increased productivity associated with free mapping information increased the real output of local government by over £230m in 2008/09, and the Agreement is expected to multiply these effects further.