UK open public data

April 19, 2010

Ordnance Survey, the British national mapping agency, has released open data at the beginning of this month. This is a 180 degree change for Britain. It used to have one of the most restrictive public data policies and hardly any official geo data was available. The new British open data policy is one of the most liberal policies worldwide and we can hope that other countries, in particular in Europe, will also understand the importance of unrestricted access to public data and adopt similar open policies.

The data is not only called ‘open’ it really is open. Unlike other ‘open data’ projects that use unopen share-alike licenses,  the OS OpenData is available under a so called ‘OS OpenData License‘, which is aligned and interoperable with the creative commons attribution license.

Of interest for GeoNames are several datasets:

  • 1.7 million postal codes (code-point)
  • 1:50’000 Gazetteer (260’000 toponyms)
  • admin boundaries

It will take some time and work till we can make optimal use of the data. The existing ‘outcode’ based postal codes have already been replaced with the new data. On the free ws.geonames.org server the postal code webservices (reverse and search) are now returning the full 1.6 million postalcodes. The dataset does not include postal codes for NIR, IM, GY and JE. For those regions we continue using the previous data.

The postal code dump directory now contains two files for GB, the default file with the outcodes and an additional file with the full postal codes. It is not yet clear whether we should continue with the outcodes or replace them entirely with the full codes. What do you think? Please comment your ideas and requirements below.

In order to use the admin boundaries we will have to clean up the existing admin divisions and align them with the Ordnance Survey divisions.

The gazetteer unfortunately only has a very high level ‘feature code’ and for the majority of the toponyms the feature code is missing entirely (X).

fcode | count
-------+--------
X | 128662 (all other features)
O | 41228 (other)
FM | 34723 (Farm)
W | 24425 (Water)
H | 14524 (Hill or mountain)
F | 8708 (Forest or wood)
A | 5252 (antiquity non-roman)
T | 1259 (town)
R | 237 (roman antiquity)
C | 62 (city)

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