back to article launches data mash-up competition

The UK government is starting a competition to find funky, Web 2.0 ways to mash up its data, man. Suggestions like "put it on an unencrypted CD and lose it" will not be welcome. Or leave it on a laptop on a train. Or dump a file on a train. Or so on ad nauseum. Instead, cabinet office minister Tom Watson is offering a …


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  1. Gerard Krupa

    The Wast-Ometer

    I suggest something like a web hit counter but money-based - an animated, scrolling counter that shows just how much money the government has wasted on over-budget IT projects, quangos run by MPs wives and, of course, big giant white domes in the middle of London - all in real-time.

    Or perhaps one that's rapidly counting down to zero, monitoring the number of NHS dentists still practising.

  2. Edward Rose

    Let's get this right....

    They collect all this information, claiming it is vital they have it.

    Now they are asking us what the hell they should do with it?

    WHAT?!? (I apologise for poor punctuation).

  3. Michael

    Wait, are they admitting

    "we've collected all this data and we don't know what for"?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My suggestion

    Places that make you ill.

    Assign an average illness score to a district. Start from a peak of house sales, look for places that have, over the previous and next year, a lower than localised average illness score. Jump to the next period of house market stagnation, look for a higher than localised average illness score. Merge the two sets = Slough, Huddersfield and Cardiff.

  5. Andy
    Thumb Down

    The finger missing the pulse

    Isn't this exactly the sort of thing that we are supposed to be worrying about: the government making links between the data in different systems, so that they find out even more stuff about us?

    Gosh, yes, lets have a competition to see who can come up with the best way of restricting our privacy. Eurgh.

  6. David


    So having tried to convince us that every piece of information they collected was "essential and would only be used for a specified purpose" they now have to have a *competition* to find a use for it! So either they didn't need to collect it in the first plcae, in which case they were lying when they said it was essential, or they're looking at new ways to use it, so they were lying when they said it was only going to be used for the specified purpose. Gordon, I trust you about as far as I could comfortably spit out a rat.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let me think....

    Why not set up their own auction site... they can auction off all this "surplus" data to the highest bidder ??

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how about

    easiest place to get laid?

  9. Whitter
    Thumb Down

    Tish and piddle

    Daat protection: data will be collected for the purposes specified and only those purposes etc.

    The idea that large-scale cross referenced databases can be de-personalised is utter tosh: these kind of meta-analyses are precisely what the DPA is about avoiding.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's one

    Plotting MPs' second homes on Google Maps. Then they can use that info to find their nearest John Lewis store.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A Cabinet Office spokesman writes...

    Take a look at the type of data being used in this competition. It includes addresses of schools, locations of different types of healthcare centre, details of planning applications and so on. It is all information that is already put to excellent and obvious use by the authorities that hold it - the Department for Children, Schools and Families needs to be able to contact its schools, for example.

    What we're asking people to do is come up with new and innovative ways to combine these datasets in order to create useful services that the Government hasn't considered before.

    This competition is certainly NOT about sharing the kind of personal information on individuals that is covered by the Data Protection Act.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    another anon-mousle

    -- I used to work in Local Gov as a computer auditor and if anyone was caught using data from other systems they would be looking for their next job.

    -- So we did not get caught. -- but -- we did sort out lots of wrongs. With this attitude can you imagine how many more we would have caught and stopped the waste&rise in Council Tax.

    -- The big question is ??? who's going to check the checkers to stop missuse.

    -- The men in 'Black' now become the men for 'BROWN!!!!!'

    -- We can't trust them now, how can we ever?

    -- My advice is 'DELETE' and then 'DEFRAG' then throw it on the fire.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If it's OK to put out that data, why not in a zip file?

    Well look, if you're so sure that this data is useful and non invasive and non personal data, then why not just put it out in a zip file as raw data? Why invite proposals for Web 2.0 apps?

    Slapping a pretty Web2.0 app around it, won't stop it being mined. It only makes it a little harder. So any data you put out, whether in Web 2.0 or raw data, it will be extracted.

    So you put it out, in raw data on a website. People do their Web2.0 apps. You scream in horror as you realize that (a la AOL) it can be cross linked to other data to create a personalized set of data used to single out and victimize citizens. They vote your nasty ass out of office, and I laugh my Pertwee off.

    Sounds fair?

    Because you're entrusted with data you're supposed to keep private, and need to have a good reason that outweighs the bad reasons to release it.

    So you want to put out NHS health stats, but health insurance companies will use that to weight their charges against people living in areas who use a lot of NHS services. And so will car insurance companies, because sick people don't drive so well, and scammers will use it to target pills and potions, etc. etc., we can't even imagine the possible combinations of data that THEY have cross linked to the data that YOU have. But if you put it out, we'll find out.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  14. Anonymous Coward

    brilliant idea

    Maybe they could mash our personal data with phishing websites. Those who have their benefits paid into a bank account for example, or maybe Dr Kwazee Umbongo of the International bank of Public Toilet somewhere in Nigeria could become their trusted data handler. Do the data mash - it'll be a banking smash (and grab) probably.

  15. John

    seriously though, puddles are a problem

    Where I am we get a lot of lake size puddles due to blocked drains, or poorly civil engineered drains. I had the idea of folk locating said drains (or burst water main) so they could tell their local council or whoever exactly where they were. When the offending drains were fixed a graphic could be uploaded to signify this. I did a set of colour coded graphics in about 2 minutes a year or so ago. All it would need to be is uploaded to your local council's/water company's website using a google maps API (free of charge). It wouldn't require any personal data either, just the location of your puddle/water main. Obviously using the GIGO rule (e.g if every grid was blocked) a lot of time could be wasted. I'll have 15 grand for the idea, 5 grand for someone to code it.

  16. Wayland Sothcott

    Total Information Awareness

    T.I.A ofcourse. Link it so you can pick a person and see everything about them from one screen. Even bring up their last CCTV footage or live webcam, turn on the mic in their laptop or mobile phone.

  17. Stewart Haywood

    Public services

    How about mashing (wot an 'orrible word) MPs home addresses with MPs expense accounts. We could then locate all the kitchens and baby sitting services that have been paid for by the public and are, I assume, free for the public to use.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about a photo database?

    They can have photos of every street from civilian volunteers which people can call up at will to see photos which represent the key features of that street.

    Then when someone asks what you're doing taking photos you can say it's for a government project.

  19. Hrishikesh

    Power of Information Taskforce ?

    or PITA for short.

    I'll get me coat - and I'm not walking funny...

  20. michael

    how about

    some sort of program that simulated a globe or "earth" witch has lots of satalate photos and then data about places can be put on the "earth" so pepol can search or "google" as us hip kids on this "earth" for things that intrest them they could call it

    "search globe!"

  21. TG

    mapping by/the people

    A far more useful and cost effective exercise would be to raise the profile/fund OpenStreetMap to the point at which The Ordnance Survey had to get real about their licence fees and charges.

    Would both directly & indirectly save punters millions as well as creating a far broader/innovative open playing field to stimulate further UK geo-related business - all very trendy & web2.0 etc.

  22. Mike Smith

    Think of the children!

    I suggest a mashup that combines the electoral roll, Police National Computer, List 99 and an open interface into each utility company's billing system. A web front end that allows you to enter a postcode and a radius, with an app that checks for changes in dates. New names in any of the linked systems are checked against the PNC and anyone who's ever been arrested and who is inside the specified radius is returned to the front end. A text alert service could be an optional extra, so that you can get real-time information on any criminal who's moved into the area.

    It's for your own good, comrade. Think of the children.

  23. Geoff Mackenzie

    What about ...

    Mashing together (@Stewart Haywood: agreed, horrible term) data from various parties' and individuals' election promises with data on actual policies and how they subsequently voted. Throw in data pertaining to payments from companies to these parties and individuals and the pattern of knighthoods.

    That'd be interesting.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Totally PC Idea.

    Just submitted the sort of Orewllian interfearing sort of idea that the government just love to role out.

    Wonder whether they will take the bate;)

  25. Master Baker


    Location of sex shops mashed with Tory MP second homes.

    A mashup of Labour intelligence verses Iraq's WMDs (to be fair there wouldn't be much data for this one).

  26. Mike Smith
    Black Helicopters

    Re: Totally PC Idea.

    "Wonder whether they will take the bate;)"

    Careful, mate. They just might.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    "Public data is your data."

    Quite catchy -- sounds better than "Your data is public data", I suppose, a la HMRC public data CD loss debacle.

    Then again, public data is seemingly not your data if you use a camera to collect it: see

    Maybe, HMRC included, can put the 20 grand towards using an "internal network" (intranet anybody?) to transmit private data.... nah, that would never work....

  28. Jimmy

    Makes you proud to be British

    Hang on there for just one cotton-pickin' minute, people. Here we have a government minister, Tom Watson MP, thrashing around looking for a suitably cool & funky way to distribute data that is surplus to requirements, having morphed from 'essential' to 'not wanted on voyage' in the twinkling of an eye. Is this what NuLabour mean when they talk about Transformational Government?

    In another Bonfire of the Vanities they have suddenly discovered that all those essential league tables and performance indices that turned the NHS into a box-ticking bureaucracy instead of a health service can now be thrown overboard.

    Have they seen the light? Nah.

    In order to protect themselves from terrorists and stalkers MPs will today vote to defy a High Court order that requires them to disclose their home addresses in response to a Freedom of Information request. The Guvmint and Information Commissioner opposed the request. Phorm for the punters, phuck off for MPs.

    The sense of entitlement that these people have makes Naomi Campbell look like a goddam pussy cat.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    "Wonder whether they will take the bate"

    If it's the one about mapping causes of crime, they already have.

    Paris, cos she probably can't spell "bait" either.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    It's thoroughly NuLabour

    They are already removing comments that ask awkward questions. Why am I not surprised?

  31. Peter

    Giving it away?


    However, I am a little concerned about IP/idea protection.

    Yes there is the potential of a £20k prize, but if it's a goodie then surely the idea will be worth/generate a lot more?

    The FAQ on the site clearly outlines the first, and most major danger in this regard, namely (and unlike a patent or trademark) an 'idea' a lot trickier to protect.

    It's one thing to be viewed by a limited number of judges (though in the case of some gov/quango efforts I have been part of, possibly even worse), but here your concept is laid out raw and ready to rip.

    And I'm hard pressed to think how many decent notions involving the use and/or manipulation of data won't be essentially web-based ideas and rather open to... 'homage'.

    The trick would seem to be to tempt in the submission enough to generate a bite, but without giving away too much.

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