Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Christopher Board (OS 06)

  Thank you for your invitation to make a submission on the workings of the Ordnance Survey as it affected our consultative committee based at the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).

  In 1999 we were concerned about the pricing of large scale data and smaller-scale paper products. Many schools begin work with maps using large scale, ie 1:10,560 or 1:10,000 or larger, before moving later to smaller scales. We were concerned that the cost of paper products at larger scales had become so high as to be beyond the resources of most schools. This concern has been renewed by the latest price increases for graphic (paper) mapping.

  An investigation of the take-up of digital map data by schools uncovered considerable variability in charging for data and training in their use among Local Education Authorities. In summary the service was polarised between the very good and the non-existent. As a result a "best-practice" brochure was prepared for all LEAs and alternative supply routes were sought, a new system being promised for January 2001. At the same time it was recognised that schools not falling under LEAs were at a disadvantage as they did not fall under the Service Level Agreement established between OS and Local Authorities. This concerned licences to use in copyright mapping and digital data for use in Geographical Information Systems. From October 2000 Independent and privately funded schools were relieved of having to buy individual licences and are no longer at such a disadvantage.

  With reference to higher education one of our members was much involved in discussions which finally resulted in the agreement between OS and the Joint Information Services Committee of HEFCE. This relates to the supply of digital map data at reasonable prices to universities and, being widely taken up, has proved successful.

  A series of maps specifically designed for the educational market, including wall maps and poster maps, has been competitively priced. Our committee appreciated being involved in the process of deciding the content and design of such maps.

  Such advances in co-operation with educational users would be jeopardised by some of the proposals in the consultation paper Licensing of Crown Copyright—HMSO Regulatory Framework. The concept of equal treatment of all those re-using OS mapping would be likely to prevent OS from giving preferential treatment to schools. It would be unfortunate if the future users of digital map data were to be starved of familiarisation with digital mapping by a one-size-fits-all approach which puts fair treatment among user groups before other considerations.

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