One of my photos

Mash it up

July 2nd, 2008 · Posted by Skuds in Politics/Technology · No Comments · Politics, Technology

I do like the sound of what my friend ((well…  friend on Facebook anyway)) Tom Watson is trying to do with government data.  I’m sure it will go down very well with the Guardian’s technology section which has been pushing its ‘Free Our Data’ campaign for ages now.  In fact, what Tom is trying to set up sounds a bit like the Mashed 08 event that the Guardian featured just last week.

In the case of Mashed 08 an assortment of developers and hackers were given access to several sources of BBC data that the Beeb normally keeps to itself and were set the task of devising applications that could combine the data with other data streams or applications in useful or interesting ways.  One result was a program that took subtitles from TV programs, fed them through other applications, including Babelfish,  and converted them to speech so that you could get a program dubbed with an instant translation to another language.

The new government plan is to see what developers can do if given access to data from Ordnance Survey, the NHS, ONS and other places.  Obviously the data is statistical rather than individual records, but it could still provide some unexpected results.

The whole thing will not grab many headlines but could end up being very productive.  Or maybe it won’t: there are no guarantees, but I’ll be surprised if I am not surprised by something these developers can come up with. If that makes sense.  I have more confidence in motivated geeks than in large companies like EDS when it comes to having new ideas.

Details can be found at the Show us A Better Way website and the Power of Information Task Force blog.

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