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

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 economy.

  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 and potential methods of linking the two sites could be taken into account.

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