Could this be the tipping point for UK data mashups?

The best thing that I took from this week’s 2gether08 event was yesterday’s announcement by blogging MP Tom Watson and Ofcom’s blogging Tom Loosemore of Show Us a Better Way.

The site (also a blog – notice a pattern here?) is releasing a range of public data and inviting people to mash them up, or come up with ideas to do so. In their words:

The UK Government wants to hear your ideas for new products that could improve the way public information is communicated. The Power of Information Taskforce is running a competition on the Government’s behalf, and we have a £20,000 prize fund to develop the best ideas to the next level. You can see the type of thing we are are looking for here

To show they are serious, the Government is making available gigabytes of new or previously invisible public information especially for people to use in this competition.

While the US has a strong tradition of making public data available, which has enabled the likes of Adrian Holovaty to create pioneering mashups like and Everyblock, the UK’s public data has been much less open.

But that is changing. The Guardian’s ‘Free Our Data’ campaign has successfully heaped a lot of pressure on government to “Make taxpayers’ data available to them”, and when I was recently invited to take part in a government white paper workshop around “community empowerment”, I got the impression that I was knocking at a semi-open door when I said that public availability of data would be my number one priority (more on that workshop here).

Anyway, back to that new website. Murray Dick has already come up with some stonking ideas, and I would suggest every journalist in the country with any interest in the future of journalism should at the very least be watching this and thinking about the possibilities in their area. The Power of Information Task Force blog is well worth following for further examples internationally.

If you think FOI requests have transformed journalism in recent years, and the battle to retain those, think about this: if we don’t make the most of this opportunity, we’ll have no excuse when the government decides to withdraw the offer.

Bill Thompson

Justin Pickard: “This is what it’s all about”.

Shane McC: “Surely this can’t be government? But it is…Brilliant”

Guardian Tech: ” It would be fantastic if a Guardian Tech reader could win this”

Ideal Government: “we offered an OS map and a Google lava lamp”

Richard’s Kingdom: “what’s even better is that this competition is accompanied by a whole raft of new public APIs”

Ed Parsons: “I’m Impressed”

Skuds Sister: “I have more confidence in motivated geeks than in large companies”

Daveyp “does this mark a sea change”

Ideal Government: “Power of Information work is gathering pace and getting quite exciting”

Bob Piper: “My suggestion was going to be ‘Where’s my bloody post office gone’.”

Open: ” it behoves me to offer a little praise when they get things right”

100 ideas already Tom Watson: “we might have to find some more prizes.”

Personal Democracy: “Kudos to all!”

5 thoughts on “Could this be the tipping point for UK data mashups?

  1. Pingback: Podnosh Blog » Archive » Show them a better way a £20,000 competition from the Cabinet Office.

  2. Pingback: 2gether08 | Who is talking about 2gether08

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