Ordnance Survey paper maps and digital mapping used by many outdoors enthusiasts

Ordnance Survey paper maps and digital mapping used by many outdoors enthusiasts

A minister has announced plans to turn Britain’s national mapping agency into a government-owned company.

Business minister Matthew Hancock said Ordnance Survey will change from being a trading fund to the new status.

The minister said in a written statement to the Commons: “Ordnance Survey exists in a fast-moving and developing global market.

“There has been rapid technology change in the capture and provision of mapping data, and increasingly sophisticated demands from customers who require data and associated services – including from government.

“To operate effectively, Ordnance Survey needs to function in an increasingly agile and flexible manner to continue to provide the high level of data provision and services to all customers in the UK and abroad, in a cost effective way, open and free where possible. Company status will provide that.”

The Southampton-based agency said: “Ordnance Survey has been working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to consider the most appropriate platform for its future operations and growth.

“The Government and board of Ordnance Survey have concluded that operating as a government-owned company – a GovCo – will better place the business to act at pace in rapidly changing markets and remain at the heart of the global geospatial industry.

“Becoming a GovCo will not change the ownership of Ordnance Survey; it will remain 100 per cent in public ownership. The Ordnance Survey board will remain accountable to the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills.

“Ordnance Survey’s customers, partners and stakeholders will not be affected by the transfer to a GovCo. It is anticipated that they will ultimately benefit from a more efficient and focussed business aligned to their needs.

“Existing arrangements such as the Public Sector Mapping Agreement, One Scotland Mapping Agreement and OS OpenData will continue on the same terms until their scheduled end dates.”

OS said a new status would enable it to respond more effectively, quickly and flexibly to markets and to better support the maintenance and quality of geographic datasets available under the Open Data programme, and identify where more can be done.

It would also improve Ordnance Survey’s ability to recruit and retain skilled employees, particularly for digital, mobile and data management which are in great demand.

It said it would give the agency greater freedom to manage its day-to-day operations.

Sir Rob Margetts CBE, Ordnance Survey non-executive chair, said: “As a government-owned company Ordnance Survey will be better positioned to maintain its leadership role in our rapidly evolving industry.

“Our objective is to increase our pace of development by introducing more location-based products, services and solutions to benefit both existing and new customers, partners and markets.

“For Ordnance Survey to have a long-term sustainable future, we need a conventional business structure, which provides the platform for commercial growth, investments and product development.

“Over the past decade the realisation of the significance of location data by businesses and governments around the globe has grown significantly. Today Ordnance Survey data, services and expertise are being used extensively across the private and public sector to drive efficiencies, underpin decision making and provide valuable insight and intelligence.”

Ordnance Survey was founded in 1791, and became a trading fund in April 1999. In common with other government trading funds such as the Met Office, Companies House and Land Registry, it currently has to cover its costs by selling data and other products.

Mr Hancock said: “Under the new model, the quality, integrity and open availability of data will be fully maintained, and in future, improved.

“Existing customers, partners and suppliers will benefit from working with an improved organisation more aligned to their commercial, technological and business needs.

“Ordnance Survey will also continue to publish a statement of its public task, to subscribe to the Information Fair Trader Scheme and comply with the relevant Public Sector Information Regulations, including Freedom of Information legislation, and make as much data as possible openly available to a wide audience of users.”

  • grough is a commercial partner of Ordnance Survey through mapping supplied via its grough route system.

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