Those of you who were at the excellent SLA event on 11th September (‘The Locational Data Market’) will have seen Prof. Bob Barr perform; and once seen, never forgotten! Given Bob’s encyclopaedic knowledge of locational data, I think we can see his hand in The Case for an Open National Address Dataset (see Sarah Hitchcock’s blog – ‘The Open Data Group – an inside view’).

Like Sarah, Bob Barr is also a member of the ODUG team. They have put together a very persuasive case for making not only the Postcode Address File – PAF – but also Ordnance Survey’s AddressBase, Open Data. These two datasets together form the National Address Gazetteer (NAG). Since the government announced NAG back in December 2010, various bodies have been lobbying to make NAG Open Data; they include the MRS Census & Geodemographics Group (CGG), the Association of Census Distributors (ACD) and the Demographics User Group (DUG).

Those of you who attended the Open Data SLA event in Winchester on 21st February this year (organised by SLA members Mark Braggins, Mike Bovis, and Steve Scholey) will remember the keynote speaker, Prof. Nigel Shadbolt, speaking eloquently about the value of Open Data. Nigel and his colleague Tim Berners-Lee are the joint ‘drivers’ of data.gov.uk.

I took the opportunity to make the case for Open NAG at that event; in conversation afterwards, I commented to Nigel that I was surprised that it was proving so hard to make this happen, given that the government’s Transparency Board, of which he is a member, had argued for just that in their minutes of June 2011. He said (discreetly !) that some parts of government were keen to ‘keep the money’!

In my view, this ODUG initiative may provide the catalyst to make this very desirable thing happen – an Open NAG, free for all to use. If you’re interested, I would encourage you to read the ODUG papers – see Sarah’s blog. Her second reference (http://data.gov.uk/blog/odug-calls-on-the-government– etc. is actually Heather Savory’s blog where you can add your comments. Why don’t you add your voice? I have a feeling that this time, the tide for Open Data is flowing so strongly that it will be very difficult for the likes of Ordnance Survey and Royal Mail to resist its force.

Peter Sleight, chair, SLA

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