Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

From the "Shooting Yourself in the Foot" Department...

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I mentioned a while back the cool competition that the government here in the UK were running, called “Show Us a Better Way”. The idea was that people could submit ideas for mashups with public information. Well, the contest appears to have been a great success- it closed at the end of September and the winners were announced earlier this month (no, my entry didn’t win, sob).

Not unsuprisingly, the winning entries all had a geospatial component to them, but their future is already in doubt due to some over-zealous big-stick-waving from dear old Ordnance Survey. In short, the OS are saying that no data derived from their products can be displayed on Google Maps, due to incompatibilities between their own Contractors license and that of Google. It’s OK though, because they can use OpenSpaces, OS’s own mapping product,  although that is not for high-volume use, and the OS will own any data that you plot on it. As Charles Arthur comments– the OS seem to be operating the opposite of a GPL license- everything they touch, they own.

For those that already don’t think this is all a bit ridiculous and, well, crappy, here’s the rub: the Show Us a Better Way competition was part-funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government, who the (publicly funded OS) have to report to!

So, this better way that they are supposed to be showing us, is already mired in complications and ridiculous licensing issues. Looks like we’ll have to crowd-source it then, as long as we promise never to read an atlas or look at another map again, just in case…

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