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The Geospatial Commission has published a report setting out ways to enhance the UK’s location data ecosystem

Published 24 November 2020

From Cabinet Office and Geospatial Commission and Sir Andrew Dilnot

The Geospatial Commission has published its ‘Enhancing the UK’s Geospatial Ecosystem’ report, building on the UK’s Geospatial Strategy. It outlines areas for action to enhance the UK’s location data market, and is based on the findings of an independent research study by Frontier Economics into the state of the location data market in the UK.

Location data, also known as geospatial data, underpins activity in sectors as diverse as infrastructure, housing and retail. In Enhancing the UK’s Geospatial Ecosystem, the Geospatial Commission identifies that the evolving and increasingly important role of location data in supporting economic activity is not yet fully understood by all those holding or using it, nor those responsible for developing the frameworks that govern access to it. The report highlights the following three areas and six recommendations that require action now to secure the full potential of location data to the UK: 

  • Improving access to location data - Data holders should consider the public good as a main rationale when making decisions about access to location data.
    • Action 1: The Geospatial Commission will include the objective that ‘data holders consider the public good in decisions about access to location data’ in its forthcoming guidelines for measuring the value of location data, and for the ethical use of location data and technology in both the private and public sector.
    • Action 2: Competition regulators, including a future Digital Markets Unit and organisations within the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum, should consider the potential public good arising from the sharing and reuse of location data when evolving their regulatory approach for unlocking competition in digital markets.
  • Maintaining public trust in how location data is used - There should be an informed public discourse considering the benefits arising from use of location data and the potential risks to individual privacy.
    • Action 3: The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) should provide further clarity on the distinction between personal and non-personal location data.
    • Action 4: The Geospatial Commission will lead an informed public discourse about the benefits and risks of new applications of location data, starting with a new programme of deliberative public engagement.
  • Driving location data adoption - Organisations should recognise the additional value that location data can deliver for their business.
    • Action 5: The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) should further incorporate location data capability as an essential component of their programmes for increasing growth, innovation and productivity within the UK economy.
    • Action 6: The Government Commercial Function should embed provisions within appropriate government contracts and spend approvals to require valuable location data, generated either directly or as a by-product of the provision of other goods and services, to be retained and made available for appropriate reuse by the government.

The Frontier Economics research and the Geospatial Commission’s recommendations were informed by discussions with an independent panel consisting of Sir Edward Troup, Sir Ian Diamond, Tera Allas CBE, Amelia Fletcher CBE and John Pullinger CB.

Sir Andrew Dilnot, Geospatial Commission Chair, said

“Data about location is increasingly valuable to businesses throughout the UK economy, and it is important that the right conditions are in place to support its efficient access, trusted use and swift adoption. The Geospatial Commission has outlined key recommendations and actions, and looks forward to working with key partners in government, to ensure that these conditions are enabled.    

I am grateful to Frontier Economics for their thoughtful and rigorous analysis of the UK’s geospatial data market, which takes a unique approach to identifying the full impact of geospatial data throughout the UK economy and is the main basis for the Geospatial Commission’s recommendations.”

Embargoed until 3pm Tuesday 24 November

Date: Tuesday 24 November 2020 Time: 15:00pm - 17:00pm

Contact for queries: Fiona Booth, Head of Communications and Engagement, Geospatial Commission This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 07702 820 781

Link to register for event:


  1. The Geospatial Commission is publishing two reports on the 24 November 2020:
    1. Enhancing the UK’s Geospatial Ecosystem by the Geospatial Commission, which sets out three key areas and six recommended actions to enhance the UK’s location data market
    2. The Geospatial Data Market Study, an independent study by Frontier Economics into the dynamics of the UK’s location data market that underpins the key areas for action.


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