Geospatial data investments improved in the public sector

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New guidance on geospatial data in the public sector has been published, setting rules on assessing the economic, social and environmental value of investments in location data

Location data, or geospatial data, is a strategic national asset which can benefit organisations and wider society, and the public sector.

Vital government priorities such as Net Zero, Levelling Up and managing COVID-19 have all been made easier with location data.

Improving guidance on location data investment, the Geospatial Commission has published an appraisal to help public sector organisations make more effective cases for investing in this data.

This will be based on best-practice methods, existing research and experiences of stakeholders, in line with a commitment made in the UK’s Geospatial Strategy

Value can be difficult to foresee

Public sector investments have often been difficult to understand and to assess and articulate the economic, social, and environmental value of location data coherently. This has hindered their ability to attain funding.

Assessing the value of location data has been hard because value is often realised only when location data is combined with other datasets, and value varies depending on the intended use.

So, by providing a more structured and practical approach to assessing value that is based on best-practice methods, existing research and the experiences of stakeholders, the government strives to achieve better consistency in the way that these benefits are routinely captured, improving the quality of investment cases presented to decision-makers.

Linking data to location improves analysis, decisions, and outcomes

Thalia Baldwin, Commissioner of the Geospatial Commission said: “Linking data to location improves analysis, decisions and outcomes. It is vital that the public sector invests to maintain our strategic national geospatial assets. Our guidance will support organisations to make a coherent and persuasive case for improved geospatial data.

“The seven-step framework presented in the guidance sets out an approach to understanding, assessing and articulating the value of a location data project, from the inception stage to the presentation of benefits.

“Many of the principles set out in this guidance are also relevant for data investments more generally and support commitments to improve the use of digital and data, as set out in the National Data Strategy and the Roadmap to Digital and Data 2022-2025.”

“Geospatial data has the potential to unlock a variety of important use cases across the UK economy but there are challenges to valuation that can inhibit their application”

David Henderson, Chief Geospatial Officer at Ordnance Survey said: “We all know the practical value of maps and location data in supporting our everyday life. But expressing that value in a way that supports future investment in geospatial data and services by government and business remains a challenge.

“This work provides a valuable foundation on how to express those benefits and a more consistent approach to making the case for geospatial data.

“The guidance was developed in conjunction with Frontier Economics, with contributions from a wide range of location data users and suppliers. It includes case studies where the framework has been applied to past investments, acting as a helpful reference and learning tool for users.”

Sarah Snelson, Director of Public Policy Practice at Frontier Economics said: “Geospatial data has the potential to unlock a variety of important use cases across the UK economy but there are challenges to valuation that can inhibit their application.

“We have worked closely with stakeholders to develop a practical valuation approach that public sector organisations can apply. We are excited to see how the framework is used.”


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