Freeing UK Government Data

Andres Ferrate
Nov. 07 2008, 02:08AM EST

You may remember our previous blog post on ShowUsABetterWay.com, a web site set up by the UK Government's Power of Information Task Force as a resource for public involvement in the use of government data made available for use in mashups and applications. As part of the Task Force's data sharing initiative, a contest with several cash prizes was set up as an incentive to garner ideas on how to effectively use the government data.

As we previously mentioned, the government initiative gained quite a bit of momentum, and the Ministry of Justice even chipped in some additional prize money. Now the Power of Information Task Force has announced the first round of winning ideas for the Show Use a Better Way contest. The short list includes 5 ideas that will be built, 5 ideas that will be supported and 4 models that will likely be built upon.

The winning ideas announced on ShowUsABetterWay.com and the Guardian (UK) include:

Ideas where we hope to create a fully working tool:

  • UK Cycling: A one-stop site to plan your cycling route, for those at any skill level
  • Can I recycle it? Input your postcode to find out what your council recycles
  • Catchment Areas: Shows boundaries of school catchment areas, even "fuzzily"
  • Location of Postboxes (in rural and residential areas): Shows where the nearest one is to wherever you are
  • Loofinder: A mobile texting or website that tells you where the nearest public toilet is

Ideas where we will develop the idea further:

  • Road Work API: an interface to any and all roadworks so that organisations (such as satnav companies) or individuals could build alert systems
  • Oldie Net: which would tell you about services in your area
  • Free Legal Web: which would be an authoritative mashup of expert legal commentary and public-sector information
  • Allotment Manager: for better allocation of garden allotments
  • Where does my money go?: an interactive web application showing government budget data via maps, timelines, graphs and charts

Prototypes we will be funding to be developed further:

  • UK Schools Map
  • School Guru
  • Where's the path
  • Wreck Map

That's quite a creative list! You can get additional information on each idea from the Guardian article on the contest winners.

We would like to congratulate the winners on their success and the UK Government for having the vision to free its data for the common good. We hope that this model will be replicated by other governments at all scales, and we look forward to seeing more mashups based on government data and APIs.

Andres Ferrate

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