London, UK: “Ordnance Survey (OS) should re-consider plans to charge schools for using its data,” said Dr Richard Waite, Managing Director of ESRI (UK). But, OS countered that it had not yet made a decision on supporting schools’ use of geographic data.
Dr Waite was addressing the audience at the Geographic Association. Dr Waite said, “Under the OS MapPilot trial, local authority-funded schools have free access to a range of OS datasets. This trial will close from 14 May and be replaced by a scheme to be run by Edina, under which schools will each be charged GBP 50 a year for this data access. On behalf of all schools, I am astonished that the OS is intending to start charging schools for its datasets. How can the Ordnance Survey now be making some datasets available for free to all, whilst at the same time introducing a charge to schools for data sets that were previously free?”
Edina is the Edinburgh University data library and supplies information for higher and further education in the UK.
Further, Dr Waite added, “I fear that many schools will simply give up on geographic information and the use of digital maps or choose not to engage with it, if this charge is imposed. But this is precisely the time when we should be encouraging such a take-up, as stated by the Prime Minister when he announced the release of OS data sets for free last week.”
However, OS said the changes it was making were in response to alterations to schools’ status and governance. A spokesperson for the Southampton-based national mapping agency said, “OS is reviewing the future delivery of data to schools in the light of the changing status and governance of many schools with the increase of academies and so on. There is no central funding available to support OS’s services to schools and in recent years our input has been funded from our own revenues, including free maps for 11-year-olds which has been running since 2002. We are looking at new ways to supply data using the latest technologies and have been taking part in trialling new methods, but have not as yet made a final decision on the future delivery of data to schools.”