Government around the world holds vast quantities of data, and while they should be holding on to the confidential stuff what is being done with all the non-personal data that is potentially very useful, especially when cross-referenced and put into the hands of clever people with novel ideas?
This is something that the UK government decided to leverage with the help of inventor of the web Tim Berners-Lee on data.gov.uk.
The portal is an online point of access for government-held non-personal data that encourages users to take the data, re-use it, mash it up, create apps, weave it in with other data and in general, engender semantic web practices as espoused by Berners-Lee himself.
In an interview with the Guardian, Berners-Lee said: “(British Prime Minister) Gordon Brown said to me, ‘How should the UK make the best use of the internet?’ and I replied that the government should just put all of its data on it. And he said ‘OK, let’s do it’."
The type of information made available to the general public includes stats on accidents, anti-social behaviour, cancer, carbon-emissions, exports, income and homelessness.
There are already plenty of apps created using this data including ‘The Scottish index of multiple deprivation’ by Dan Moss and ones for finding local pharmacies and dentists using the GPS on your iPhone or iPod touch.
By Marie Boran
Photo: Data.gov.uk is an online point of access for government-held non-personal data