UK consultation to shape geospatial data strategy

By on 15/08/2018
The UK government believes that better use of geospatial data will help boost economic growth and improve public services (Image courtesy: US GAO).

The UK Cabinet Office has launched a consultation on its first geospatial strategy, seeking views on how to make best use of the location data held by public, private and voluntary sector organisations.

Development of the strategy, which is slated for publication next year, will be overseen by the government’s Geospatial Commission – launched in 2017 with the goal of generating £11bn (US$14bn) of extra value to the economy each year.

Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington said: “The data revolution is changing the way we see the world and the way we live our lives – and this government is determined to make the most of the opportunities it presents.

“We want to hear how the use of geospatial data can support economic growth and productivity across the United Kingdom, while transforming how public services are delivered.”

Lidington commented that new technologies such as drones and driverless vehicles will only be made possible by effective use of geospatial data. “Decisions about public and private sector investment in the networks and infrastructure necessary to support these technologies require geospatial data to create a holistic view of the local, national and international environments from land, water and air,” he said.

A high-level view of geospatial data

The consultation, which was launched on Wednesday and will run until 24 October, covers three high-level themes. First, it will examine how to support innovation in the sector, including how to secure skills, access to data and identify opportunities.

Second, the document asks for feedback on how to improve collaboration, avoid duplication and spread best practice within the public sector. “Ensuring that the public sector has access to the core geospatial data that it needs to deliver effective and efficient citizen services both today and in the future is critical and will underpin the data that they in turn create,” it says.

Third, the government wants to look at how to best drive investment and productivity in geospatial applications, examining which sectors could benefit the most.

According to the consultation document, the government’s initial analysis has identified five categories of current activity where it believes the greatest value could be achieved: property and land; planning infrastructure; optimising transport flows; automating farming and mining; and location-based advertising.

Mapping the way forward

With its new geospatial strategy, the UK will join other governments and agencies across the world which have already published geospatial plans, including the Singapore government and the US Federal Geographic Data Committee. Earlier this month, the World Bank and the UN jointly launched a ‘roadmap’ to help countries make good use of geospatial information as they tackle development challenges.

The UK’s Geospatial Commission is a committee within Cabinet Office, and on its launch was given £80m (US$101m) of funding over two years to support the more effective use of public and private geospatial data. Its partners include government agencies with large amounts of location data, including the British Geological Survey, Coal Authority, HM Land Registry, Ordnance Survey, UK Hydrographic Office and Valuation Office Agency.

An independent board of commissioners is expected to be appointed later this year, according to the consultation document. The commission is expected to present an annual plan, outlining how activities set out in the strategy will be implemented.

About Colin Marrs

Colin Marrs is a journalist specialising in local and national government, as well as architecture and the built environment. Colin previously worked as digital content editor at Campaign, the advertising industry "bible".

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