The joint first prize winner in the 2010 Apps4NSW mashup competition has called upon all levels of government to provide better ways to search and use public datasets.
Speaking at the spatial@gov conference in Canberra, Brad Spencer, whose company NuMaps scored $15,000 for its DemographicDrapes in the recent state government-led mashup competition, commended state and Federal governments for recognising the value of third party apps in collating and better presenting government data to the public. However, he said there needed to be clearer distinctions between the roles government and the private sector played in use and publication of data and tools.
“We don’t want a situation where government is overlapping with industry in the area of mashups,” he said. “Government is going to be partly responsible for, I believe, building the registries and these metadata search engines for a lot of the government data sets.”
Some registries exist, with data.australia.gov.au alone hosting some 225 datasets from state and federal agencies for distribution and use. Individual catalogues are also available on agency websites, but Spencer said more needed to be done to ensure these datasets were visible, accessible and easy to search.
“Making data available is really only the first step - it’s nice to have this data but you’ve got to have a mechanism for delivering it and a mechanism for using it,” he said.
Mashups, often seen as a fundamental aspect of Government 2.0 collaboration and open government, have been promoted internationally by governments and interested private sector participants. Local examples have also been championed through a web showcase hosted on the Australia Government Information Management Office’s (AGIMO) blog.
The introduction of government competitions to encourage mashups and development of government data has also gone part way to encourage the wider developer community, with NSW and Victoria both offering $100,000 total prize money each for winning applications, while the Commonwealth Government’s own MashupAustralia provided an additional $30,000 prize pool as an incentive.
According to Victorian Premier, John Brumby, the state’s own competition promoted open government and increased community involvement, while providing “an estimated $1 million worth of web and mobile tools for Victorians to use”.
Spencer questioned the actual value, as well as the ultimate visibility and use of some of the winning applications. In spite of the publication of some state datasets on the Australian registry, the NSW Government has continued to put out calls to the public to gauge interest in the types and amounts of data to be made public.