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Government publishes geospatial data strategy to capitalise on location data

National Geospatial Strategy will develop the country’s location data framework over the next five years

The government has published a strategy setting out how the UK will use geospatial data to “drive innovation and boost the economy”.

The National Geospatial Strategy is presented as a plan to develop the country’s location data framework over the next five years in lockstep with the UN’s Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF).

Nicholas True, minister of state for the Cabinet Office, who today launched Unlocking the power of location: the UK’s geospatial strategy, said: “Rapid technological advances over the last 15 years have put satnavs in cars, maps on our phones, wearable sensors around our wrists and smart devices in our homes.

“The application of location data is critical for navigating our new digital world, and for making the UK a better place for everyone.

“As well as making everyday lives easier, location data has the potential to unite and level up the country – by connecting people, organisations and services.”

The strategy comes from the Geospatial Commission, which was set up in 2018 as a Cabinet Office committee.

In November 2017, the then chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond, announced the £40m Geospatial Commission as an entity that would open up Ordnance Survey data to stoke new business for small companies.

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office told Computer Weekly at the time that the commission would report jointly to the Cabinet Office and the Treasury, would draw on public and private sector expertise, and be “led by a chair to be announced in due course”.

The commission’s board is today chaired by Andrew Dilnot, an economist and broadcaster who is also warden of Nuffield College, Oxford.

In October 2018, the commission announced it was investing £5m to “unlock the value of location data”. It was understood at the time to have an £80m, two-year budget.

Dilnot said today: “Location data already has a significant impact on our lives. Better location data will help us to make more informed decisions on everything from where to build new schools and hospitals, to how to manage precious resources such as land and energy, creating economic, social and environmental value.

“It will guide development of future technologies, such as autonomous vehicles and advanced digital representations that will support improved UK competitiveness and quality of life.”

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The commission has what the Cabinet Office described in the statement announcing the strategy as six core partner bodies, dubbed the Geo6 – the British Geological Survey, the Coal Authority, HM Land Registry, Ordnance Survey, the UK Hydrographic Office and the Valuation Office Agency.

The devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland sit on the Geospatial Commission’s board as observers.

The strategy sets out the first steps that the Geospatial Commission and its partners will carry out in four areas – firstly, to promote and safeguard the use of location data to provide an evidenced view of the market value of location data, set clear guidelines on data access, privacy, ethics and security, and promote better use of location data.

Secondly, to improve access to better location data to streamline, test and scale the development of new and existing location data, ensuring it is findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable and of high quality.

Thirdly, developing more people with the right skills and tools to work with location data. And fourthly, “enabling innovation to maximise the commercial opportunities for innovation and promote market-wide adoption of high-value emerging location technologies”.

The commission’s first tasks will include the next phase of the National Underground Asset Programme, which looks to digitally map pipes and cables underground, publishing guidance for the ethical use of location data and technology, and piloting an International Geospatial Service in 2021 to showcase and export UK geospatial expertise across the world.

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