New Media Awards

I attended the New Statesman’s New Media Awards last night in the lush surrounds of Westminster Abbey’s College gardens. One might not expect an award for ‘geeks’ to be so glamorous but government IT contracts are now big business and the sponsor for the awards is Atos Origin.

What I noticed from talking to the developers of the finalist sites is the continued difficulty getting clean, raw data from public bodies. Too many public officials exhibit a mix of paranoia, unhelpfulness and obstruction to requests for raw data. The plain fact is that the public have paid for the creation and maintenance of this data and increasingly we have a legal right to access it.

MySociety won their usual two awards. This time in the Modernising Government catagory for No. 10 Downing Street Petitions and for Contribution to Civic Society for the site FixMyStreet

Other winners were:
Stop the Traffik
Information and Openness
Intelligent Giving won this award and the developer was grateful for the recognition. Most often, he said, the site is targeted with lawsuits and bad press for taking on vested interests. Richard Pope’s Planning Alerts site was a runner-up and if you haven’t check out this site you really should. I’ve signed up myself for alerts for planning applications filed near me.
Elected Representative
David Cameron’s WebCameron

3 Responses to “New Media Awards”

  1. Herbie says:

    Government bodies should take heed of the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations.

    I agree with your statement that the public have paid for the creation and maintenance of this data. However, I also believe that if any organisation is going to use information from a public body and gain from it commercially, it should pay for the information. This will help offset some of the costs to the taxpayers for maintaining the data.

  2. Frank says:

    You mention public officials exhibiting a mix of paranoia, unhelpfulness and obstruction, but I think you miss out one key ingredient: incompetence. As a public official I like to think I *am* helpful and would certainly not try to obstruct anyone accessing public information. But I also have to deal with idiotic IT “professionals” who are often unable to understand the most basis requests, are blinded by their own technical preferences, and wouldn’t understand raw data if it smacked them in the face.

  3. vaci says:

    There seems to be a general feeling that private companies should not be allowed to “exploit” public data; that they are getting something for nothing. I think this attitude is misguided for several reasons.

    Firstly, the data is usually obtained from a monopoly source (the government) so it is not straightforward to determine a market price. Often the price is set so high that many buyers are priced out of the market especially the small, innovative and start-up companies that are at the cutting edge. Many great ideas are being abandoned because the data is too expensive.

    Secondly, these companies are providing real benefits to the taxpayers by adding value to the raw data. Google Maps is a great example – can you imagine a government department developing such technically advanced software? And those private enterprises provide employment and pay taxes, so they will contribute back a proportion of the cost of producing the data.

    Thirdly, selling data as opposed to giving it away is a cost in itself. Ordnance Survey spends a fortune on laywers and other staff to enforce their restrictive licensing regime. They waste plenty of money just negotiating with other government departments.

    So really, it’s quite acceptable for business to exploit public data. What matters is that all private enterprises (including voluntary or not-for-profit) have equal access, and the government doesn’t just allow a cosy monopoly to stifle innovation.

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