Differing views on the OS consultation

I have been following some of the responses to the CLG consultation on freeing OS data and future business models. Some of the reactions to other peoples’ responses are almost more interesting than the actual responses.

Before commenting let me be open and say that I chose not to respond to the public consultation for a several reasons – I had already been part of the first phase pre consultation so I had said my bit and I just did not have the time to do any more.

It seems to me that many of the the responses split into a few groups:

  1. Those who say give me as much free data as possible now and fund it through taxes (or even don’t bother me with the technicalities of how it is funded) but basically keep OS going as the data collection agency.
  2. Those who say that there is a whole business ecostructure built around OS and that the consultation has been too superficial/quick/limited to find a better model. Oh and perhaps the damage to existing businesses might be larger than the gains from these thrusting newcos that will flourish and innovate on the back of this free data
  3. Those who have a long standing sense of injustice in their brushes with OS and want to see OS dismembered.
  4. Those who are more concerned with derived data than the free availability of a few mid scale data sets
  5. Bits of 1-4 above

I am paraphrasing liberally with tongue firmly in cheek before you start fuming at me. With the exception of 3 I have some sympathy with all of the above views.

More importantly though, if the consultation is to be taken at all seriously I believe that anyone who contributed has a right to express an opinion and for it to be factored into the process and decisions. The responses on twitter and the FOD blog to the letter from the MD’s of ESRI, Intergraph, 1Spatial and Cadcorp seems to me to go a bit over the top in deconstructing and critiquing their views. They are expressing a valid concern on behalf of businesses that employ several hundred people that needs to be balanced against social and economic gains that may arise from the changes.

If you were one of the organisations that posted a response that questioned the haste of the process (or any other response) perhaps you would like to let Charles Arthur have a link that he can add to the growing list at Free Our Data and on Ed Parsons’ site – the more the merrier.

I don’t know how you balance the range of views from individuals and numerous different sized organisations in the public and private sector responding to the consultation. Whatever is decided (and many think the decision is already pretty much made) you can be sure that a lot of people will be unhappy (put the thousand odd people working at OS in that list for a start).

I have a feeling that in a few years time we might just look back on this process and say “if only ….” Babies and bathwater, broken eggs and omelettes come to mind.

So when the decision is announced (and expect it to not be as clear cut as many fear or hope) expect the debate continue. I very much doubt that this will all be over on April Fools Day.

STOP PRESS – you might want to start by reading James Cutler’s megarant – hope he does this as a georant at AGI Soapbox this year.

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