Insurers Gain Access to Detailed UK Ordnance Survey Maps

May 25, 2010

“Ordnance Survey (OS) data is now publicly available for free, giving insurers access to crucial information to aid risk assessment,” states a bulletin on the Lloyd’s web site (www.lloyds.com).

Making the detailed maps available to the industry marks the end of a campaign organized by Lloyd’s, along with a number of other insurers and risk organizations, who lobbied the Labour Government to make the data free for the first time.

Trevor Maynard, Manager, Emerging Risks at Lloyd’s, noted: “The release of this data is good news for the industry. Lloyd’s played a role in making the case for releasing OS data, and this positive development underscores the value of companies engaging with government.”

Lloyd’s bulletin explained that, in association with the Lighthill Risk Network, it had “provided several case studies to the Labour Government to demonstrate the value of detailed data to insurers. Maynard also attended a meeting with the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) and other government departments to offer views on why data is important and should be freely available.

“This fed directly into the BERR report released in August 2009, which concluded there was a case for greater availability of data and said, ‘Government has an important duty in making public data as accessible as possible.'”

The OS, as the maps’ owner, had previously only made them available under licensing terms, but, Lloyd’s indicated, “as of 1 April, those licensing terms were dropped and the data is now freely available on the Ordnance Survey website [http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/opendata/].

“Maps as detailed as 1:10,000 scale can be downloaded free of charge for personal or commercial use. The data enables risk assessment down to the postcode; valuable for both insurers and risk managers alike. The information can also be used to augment other government data that has been made public recently during a move toward more openness.”

Lloyd’s also lobbied for free access to data in other significant policy arenas. For example, in the ClimateWise COP15 statement, Lloyd’s argued, “In all cases, reliable, detailed and comprehensive risk exposure data (including climate, socio-economic and other hazard information) is vital, with data resolution being even more important closer to assets most at risk. In terms of availability, data is most useful when based on definitions and formats that are compatible across national borders and when access is electronic and, crucially, free and open to the public.”

Separately, for the Geneva Association in their Kyoto statement, Lloyd’s urged policymakers “to collect robust data and make it freely available…” Ultimately, the lobbying has paid off. The release of data will make the job of assessing risk easier, while the increased availability of data will enable more stakeholders in the risk industry to assess risks with greater accuracy.

Maynard added: “Better quality data will help the insurance industry to conduct more accurate risk analysis and some fascinating mash ups of different geographic layers. We believe that all parties involved in the insurance chain should drive for improved data quality and geographical resolution in order to allow for full and proper risk analysis.”

Source: Lloyd’s of London

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