Environment Agency Flood Risk areas - Open Data or not?
The Environment Agency have released the guidance docs via data.gov.uk but redirecting you to geostore.com where they specifically state that the data is not available for commercial use.
Isn't one of the provisions of Open Data that the data MUST be made available for both commercial and non-commercial users?
Could someone clarify what status the Environment Agency Flood Zones data has? Is it Open Government Data or not? If it's not, why is the agency listing it on data.gov.uk?
I agree, this does not seem to be open data. This data set and many of the others from the Environment Agency should not be listed on data.gov.uk, or at least the description should make it clear that anonymous access to the data is not possible (since registration is required) and than commercial re-use is prohibited.
Not open but certainly should be ...
Sadly the Environment Agency's Flood Zones datasets are not currently open. I strongly agree that they should be.
You can check the current status of most of the Environment Agency's data assets in the Information for Re-use Register. (The Flood Zone layers of the Flood Map are in the "High" price category.)
In my view the Environment Agency should release as open data any environmental datasets that it maintains for its own purposes, since development and maintenance of the data is already necessarily funded from the public purse. (There is a limited argument for charging when a public body has "added value" to data specifically in order to create a commercial product, but that is not applicable to the EA's flood datasets.)
There are no obvious technical barriers to making the Flood Map data available as open data. The Environment Agency already has the data packaged for distribution, and shares it within the public sector and (on a commercial basis) with insurance companies and others.
The Environment Agency is not a Trading Fund. Unlike the Ordnance Survey for example, it is not legally obliged to generate outside income from its data. Charging for re-use, as opposed to open data release, is simply a policy position held by the Environment Agency's directors.
An open data approach would maximise re-use of the Environment Agency's data assets, which would (in addition to the potential economic benefits) promote greater public understanding of environmental hazards such as flood. This is surely more in keeping with the Environment Agency's public task, and the wider public interest, than deriving a relatively minor amount of revenue from data charging.
-- Owen Boswarva, 05/12/2012