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UK: better uses for public data

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(+1, -2)
  [vote for,

Prize money: £20,000
Closes: End of September 2008
Open to: Anyone except UK government employees.

(In particular, it *is* open to non-UK citizens!)

From the "About" page:

"The government produces masses of information on what is happening around the UK. Infomation on crime, on health, on education. However, this information is often hidden away in obscure publications or odd corners of websites. Data tucked away like this isn't of use to the ultimate owner of that information YOU.

"The Power of Information Taskforce want to hear your ideas on how to reuse, represent, mashup or combine the information the government holds to make it useful."

Details, see link.

The comments section is enlightening; it shows both the arcane interface- and licensing hoops that people have to jump through to get this data; and, in contrast, the responsiveness of the people hosting and trying to open up the data sources.

jutta, Jul 05 2008

showusabetterway.co.uk http://www.showusab....uk/call/about.html
[jutta, Jul 05 2008]


       Prize money: £2,000,000,000 in used fivers
Closes: 70 years following the death of the citizen concerned or never, whichever comes later.
Open to: US government employees, lobbyists, big business.

       The UK government has the ability to demand masses of information on what is happening around the UK. Infomation on innocent people, their addresses, health, fingerprints, and other private and/or unchangable details[1]. However, this information is often hidden away in large centralised but weakly secured databases. Data tucked away like this isn't of use to the criminal fraternity.   

       Leaving unsecured laptops on the train and posting unencrypted CDs just doesn't cut it for us anymore. We're thinking about creating an obligatory ID card sytem with even more useful data on it, built and 'secured' by the lowest bidder. The Power of Information Taskforce want to hear your ideas on what this information should be and how to efficiently distribute it to lobbyists, big business, politicians and organised crime.   

       [1] The government is not liable for the inaccuracy of this information in the event that errors cause life-changing events such as inability to purchase insurance, false arrest or act of angry mob.
Loris, Jul 05 2008

       [Loris], you well may be right that there is a serious threat to our privacy from the accumulation of inadequately secured data, but I don't think this (the posted idea) is it.
pertinax, Jul 06 2008

       hmm... here's an idea; make all sorts of data available so that a private contracting company could offer a prize to people for best ideas, while making it look like an official government site, and flog those ideas with their contacts in government until some of them result in multi-million dollar contracts for the company while paying a pittance for the idea (if at all).   

       [edit] it is sorta legit but I'm not that familiar with UK politics.   

       [pertinax] so you're okay with a webssite, complete with plans of area school grounds, current enrolment figures, cross-references to newspaper articles featuring the schools and their named students, etc. ? How about an organization that notes to local council that "a couple more crimes and your area gets pushed to the next level and the value of your properties will drop 10pct... for a modest fee we can see that this doesn't happen". Or "which area has the most seniors living on pensions and what day do they get their cheques and what banks are in the area that they'd go to to cash them, with hours or operation"...and of course the bleedin' obvious... targetted spam.   

       No, sorry, while I *do* feel a useful system could be put into place (and egotistical enough to think I could design one), I'm cynical enough to believe that it'll just be a spam-harvest at best.
FlyingToaster, Jul 06 2008

       You're entitled to your opinions, but I'd fire both the mobster or the spammer proposing such a ludicrously convoluted scheme.   

       If I had to complain about something here, it would be the focus on finished visualizations and mash-ups over the thing that's really needed, namely, open *interfaces* - but even then, the visualization will drive the API openness and consistency, so it's all good.
jutta, Jul 06 2008

       Major problem - A lot of information is collected they would rather we didn't find out about. For instance, exactly how much the government spends and on what is usually kept secret until the wastrels responsible are long gone.   

       Similarly, if it's hard to find, it's probably hard to find for a reason.
Bad Jim, Jul 06 2008

       Speaking as a UK Government employee, my problem with this is that, if the Government don't know what to do with the data, they shouldn't be wasting resources by collecting it in the first place. Additionally, the data protection act says that personal information should only be used for the purpose that it was collected for which, sort of, implies that this jolly scheme is abetting the government to break the law!
DrBob, Jul 09 2008

       //if it's hard to find, it's probably hard to find for a reason//   

       But that reason is more likely to be negligence than malice.
pertinax, Jul 10 2008

       I though most sensitive UK government data was left on trains bound for Waterloo.
4whom, Jul 10 2008

       No [DrBob], speaking as another UK Government employee, I disagree. The Government holds all sorts of information for certain distinct purposes. This competition suggests that this information could be used in conjunction with other information and for new purposes (you're right though that for personal data, the DPA is an issue here). The difficulty I see is that there's lots of data which the Government collects which is high- quality and has a high commercial value (e.g. mapping data, weather data). It would be not giving best value to taxpayers if the Government didn't get the best return on this data, which would work against using it in the 'free' way this competition suggests.
hippo, Jul 10 2008

       Funnily enough, the Guardian (A newspaper with a liberal[1] attitude) has had a long-running campaign for the release into the public domain of all UK tax-payer funded, non-personal data. This is on the basis that it would be useful for just this sort of thing.   

       The government is, or at least was, against it on the basis that it can charge for access, effectively restricting it from the people who paid for its collection. Have they had a sudden change of heart?   

       [1] I understand that this means something else in American English. In British English it roughly means left of centre politically, humane, against totalitarianism.
Loris, Jul 10 2008

       //It would be not giving best value to taxpayers if the Government didn't get the best return on this data//

Only if you define "best value" in terms of financial return.
DrBob, Jul 11 2008

       sp: Totalitarianism   

       Just a little bit more pedantry:- I think that a fair degree of the political right is against totalinariasm (in the total regime sense of the word); not-so-liberal politics can, however, favour greater government control.
Jinbish, Jul 11 2008

       Ah, but my German Shepherd is called "Totalinarianism". I was refering to him...   

Jinbish, Jul 11 2008

       That's his nom de plume.
Jinbish, Jul 11 2008

       Now I am hungry for plums. They are in season, you know.
bungston, Jul 11 2008


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