Memorandum by ESRI (UK) Ltd (OS 12)
ESRI (UK) believes it is fundamentally important
to consider the purpose and role of Ordnance Survey as an entity
in the review. Whilst its paper products are important to a number
of communities of users, its overall commercial well-being should
not be prejudiced. A strong and influential Ordnance Survey is
necessary to the growth of the whole UK geosptial information
Further ESRI (UK) is aware of Ordnance Surveys
status as a Trading Fund from April 1999 as well as recent increases
in the price of Ordnance Survey paper based mapping products.
From OS published Annual Reports, ESRI (UK)
is aware that paper based mapping products account for only a
small proportion of the total revenues for Ordnance Survey the
organisation which are dominated by the returns for digital map
data products. However, we believe that this form of mapping is
fundamental to many aspects of our business and leisure lives.
These products are maintained with national coverage, but multiple
copies are unlikely to be sold for more than a few frequently
visited remote parts of the country.
For this reason, we believe OS needs in the
short-term, to invest in new technology to improve the efficiency
of production and update of this mapping. One could therefore
view the price increases as justified action to secure their long-term
viability. This should then however be linked to a commitment
to reduce the price and increase the use and availability of paper
mapping over a longer period.
Traditionally the technology Ordnance Survey
has required to manage much of its data and services has not been
commercially available. As technology providers we believe that
the last three to five years has seen a dramatic change in this
situation. This trend represents an excellent opportunity for
Ordnance Survey. In particular, technology for map generalisation,
automated text and feature placement is now used by major map
makers throughout the world for production of paper mapping. It
could also help to significantly reduce costs for Ordnance Survey.
For example, HarperCollins reduced the time for production of
the Times Atlas from five years to 15 months, with commensurate
cost savings using such technology.
Paper mapping accounts for only a small yet
key portion of total revenues for Ordnance Survey, in fact it
is digital data map data sources that are the key feed for map
production within Ordnance Survey. Currently the majority of datasets
held within these databases do not integrate or relate to one
another. The development of the OS MasterMap product is a key
step forward. The improvement of this situation is fundamental
to the future of many aspects of government such as "evidence
based policy making" and UK Online services, as well as businesses
such as our own. The majority of users of our software use OS
data supplied within an SLA or otherwise. If Ordnance Survey were
not given the flexibility to increase investment in their products
and services, there is a potential risk to many aspects of government
such as land ownership recording by HM Land Registry and land
valuation by the Valuation Office as well as local government
including land use and address definition. The risk is also significant
for our business. Continual improvement in OS products is crucial
to future potential business across the UK IS and IT industries.
We have a number of proposals for value added products and services
based on OS data that are core to our future business success.
These are reliant on the continuation and improvement of existing,
new and future products such as OS MasterMap. Examples include
remote hosting and provision of on-line services. In return we
believe ESRI technology underpins many millions of pounds worth
of sales of Ordnance Survey digital map data.
ESRI Inc, is based in the USA which maintains
a very "price based on cost of administration" model
for national geographic information datasets. Funding for the
US equivalent of OS, US Geological Survey, is centralised and
as such flexibility to improve and develop products means their
quality does not approach that of Ordnance Survey, particularly
at the larger scales. Currently we believe the Trading Fund model
is an appropriate framework for the management of Ordnance Survey,
to enable it to migrate and improve integration and flexibility
of systems and so create future stability within the control of
government. We are reliant on Ordnance Survey being fair within
the market place.
It should also be noted that while a SLA exists
for the supply of data to Local Government, there is not one available
for all Central Government departments and agencies to use OS
data. This is significantly restricting the take-up of geographic
information and improvements in the consistency of data held by
central government in an era of government modernisation. There
could be many hundreds of government departments that would find
value in this information to reference their own sets to, derive
policy, help disseminate and share information and so on. Accordingly
this is further restricting the market for all providers of systems
that manage and use geographic information.
The election map website, developed by Ordnance
Survey, is an excellent demonstration of the way OS mapping can
be delivered and used the latest technology. We would like to
see this site being continued and improved in terms of functionality
but would stop short at seeing government including personal information
such as Electoral Role. It should be noted that this information
is already available via sites such as www.192.com and potential
methods of linking the two sites could be taken into account.