Posts Tagged ‘Open Data’

Big Data, the Machines and You

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Ah, Big Data, the old IT bandwagon rides again eh?  Who’s with me?  Yeah, you and every other IT consultancy in town.

The thing is, beyond the hyperbole (and of course the ridiculous notion that data can be big or small or even mid-sized) incredible things are beginning to happen with data that affect the products and services we use, how we innovate and even how we understand the world around us.

More and more we are using big data services to help us in our personal lives, they recommend our purchases, answer our search queries, even translate our languages and every day, through the beauty and wonder that is machine learning, they get _better_.

Having access to more and more data, combined with technological advances like the cloud which provide seemingly limitless storage and compute power we are able, finally to start to harness the incredible power and potential it offers not just society at a broad level or just to huge organisations like Microsoft, Google and Facebook but we also start to get to a point where that power becomes accessible to every individual and every single business.

As with all such major advancements, we’ll face our fair share of challenges too; some will be technical – we’re still looking for the needle, but now it’s in a billion haystacks, some will be cultural – how do you ensure that data is accessible and of sufficient quality? And some will be just plain hard – like in a world of data and machine learning, what happens when the algorithms take over?

As it turns out, bandwagon or no, big data is crucial to our respective success.  Don’t believe me?  Well, why not waste 30 minutes of your life listening to me trying to convince you.  This is a presentation I gave at this year’s Turing Festival trying to make exactly that point.  (You can also download the slides here).

Like it or not, the world of big data is here – it is now up to us to figure out how to make best use of it.

(n.b. Thanks and appropriate respect go to both GetAmbition and Interactive Scotland for both organising the event and creating video and supporting collateral).

Bringing Government as Platform to Life –Introducing Travel Advisor

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

One of the concepts we’ve been talking about for a long time now is “Government as Platform”, the concept of breaking government services up into a number of digital building blocks that can be assembled in different combinations to provide compelling new services to citizens.

Government as Platform has many advantages, done correctly, it is not just a cost effective way of delivering relevant and rich services to citizens, but more importantly it changes the overall dynamic of how citizens gain access to crucial government information and services, ensuring that government services are federated out to the places where citizens live, work and play (rather than forcing citizens to have to come to government every time they want access to the service).

AdvisorToday, I’m really pleased to be able to announce the availability of Travel Advisor – a new example of this approach, taking a core government service – The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Travel Advisory service, federating it out through an open data api and blending that data with a great social networking platform for gap year travellers – the brilliant (Not to mention bringing with it core functionality from the internet like Bing’s currency exchange, weather and translation) All of this comes together to provide a beautiful, well informed, socially connected travel companion for gap year travellers.

Although a great application in its own right, it is also an excellent demonstration of what can be done to deliver beautiful, relevant services to citizens, by blending the diverse sources with relatively little effort and investment. Let me tell you a bit more about how it works.

The FCO is a switched on, digitally focused organisation, thanks in part to the wit and wisdom of their Head of Digital Engagement – Jimmy Leach. They already publish an RSS feed of the Travel Advisory service – a data stream of important content on all of the locations that the UK government has presence, with data ranging from what to do if your passport is lost/stolen through to up to date advice for travellers based on local conditions (extreme weather, civil unrest, significant local events etc). We contacted one of our partners – AWS, to help take that data and publish it in the cloud as an open data api that enables any developer on any platform to consume and make use of it. AWS then worked with to deliver a beautiful mobile application that would combine their socially connected services, with this authoritative information from the FCO to deliver a location aware, traveller’s resource.

The cost of developing the api and the app was actually pretty small, but the net benefit and overall experience for the citizen is immense, plus by taking this two phase approach – phase one = publish an open data api, phase two = do something beautiful with it, you create a solution that actually exponentially increases the potential value for both citizens and developers as you effectively create the opportunity for further innovation by developers to create new and interesting applications.

The Travel Advisor application is now available as a free download in the Windows Phone Marketplace.

The Future of Public Libraries

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

A few months back we were approached by the Society of Chief Librarians to provide some insight on how changes in society and technology may offer some opportunities for us to radically change the way in which we live, work and play – a topic regular viewers will know we enjoy and have some opinion on :-).

Fundamentally – I am convinced that the library is one of the primary pillars of community and as such it’s role in developing and nurturing that community is absolutely essential – however, my view is that some things need to change if we are to make the most of the opportunity (and the challenging circumstances in which we find ourselves today).

madplaceI was captivated by Alberto Manguel’s concept of the library as a "pleasantly mad place" – it struck a chord with me and re-enforced my opinion that the library needs to be many different things if it is to survive in the current environment – but whatever those things are they need to be built on the principles that have made libraries successful for thousands of years.

You can find highlights of the key recommendations I made to the SCL in this episode of the Envisioners:

Download the webcast here –

The Envisioners Episode 6

or click here to subscribe to the Envisioners podcasts on iTunes.

You can also download the slides I used here –

Open Government and the Future of Public Libraries

– like all the content we create, they’re available for use under Creative Commons license, so feel free use them if they’re helpful to you, but please respect the copyright of the image authors (see speakers notes in each slide) and ensure you are licensed properly for their use.

If you’re a sucker for punishment, a webcast of the full presentation is also available here for download:

Open Data and the Rewards of Failure

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Chris Taggart, the UK’s pre-eminant Local Gov Open Data champion and the mastermind behind OpenlyLocal has just published a superb presentation on the opportunities and challenges around Open Data.

It’s a great deck that does a really good job of articulating both the potential and the challenges faced by those involved in trying to open up local government data.

Take some time with this, it gives some great hooks to tell what is ultimately a difficult story for those that are less close to this.

Chris has also just blogged this with a little more context.

Open Government and the Future of Public Sector IT

Monday, April 19th, 2010

The power of OpenGovernment lies both in the outcomes it will bring, and the journeys we will all have to take in order to make it happen (many of which are already underway today).  In itself, it is neither a technology or a philosophy and it certainly isn’t manifesto hyperbole – here in the UK (as it is right across this world) Open Government represents the true potential of technology in a modern society.

There is an incredible pool of passionate and talented individuals (and organisations) that are all working hard on their respective corners of the cause.  I have had the privilege of meeting and working with many of them over the past few months and this podcast, presented as a keynote (and recorded live) to the 2010 Architect Insight Conference, is the best I can do to try and articulate both the potential and the challenges that the path to Open Government will bring.

You can download the webcast here (right click and “save as”) or click here to subscribe to the Envisioners podcasts on iTunes.

A word of warning however, I’m afraid I get a bit carried away at around 29:40 and use the term “b*ll*cks” a couple of times, you’ll see it’s entirely justified, but I wanted to warn you upfront in case you have sensitive ears, or are playing this in earshot of those that do. (Although frankly in the latter case, if you’re subjecting others to this stuff, I think my profanity is the least of your worries…)

Finally, you can also download the slides I used here – like everything on this site, they’re available for use under Creative Commons license, so feel free use them if they’re helpful to you, but please respect the copyright of the image authors (see speakers notes in each slide) and ensure you are licensed properly for their use.

A little data goes a long way…

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

OK, so I confess that I am currently enduring a relatively significant age related event. Luckily, thanks to the wonder that is the interwebs, I managed to find something that would combine my love of data, info-graphics and good old fashioned common sense to make me feel a little better…

God bless Data Underload… (Thanks Nathan)



Open Source, Open Standards and Open Government (Oh My!)

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Arrrrgghhhhh!!!!!  That doesn’t do my frustration justice, but you get a sense of my emotional state.

Open Source, Standards and GovernmentIt seems that the word of the year is “Open” and isn’t it funny how simply appending it to any other word seems to transcend it’s meaning into something powerful and cool, transformational even.

Don’t get me wrong, I am inspired by the concept of “Open” (and also aware of the irony of a bloke from Microsoft complaining about “Open” anything – just get over it and work with me here, OK?)

In particular, I’m really worried about how Open Source, Open Standards and Open Government have all seemed to become the same thing in the minds of the politicians and the press. 

Bobby Caudill nailed it in his recent blog post in that “Open Government is about people not technology” – I’d go further to say Open Government is about people and Open Standards are the best way of getting us there.

Regardless of your technical or political persuasion, we have to get focus back onto what it is we want to achieve – Open Government is the outcome we all are striving for, we should therefore, not spend all of our time in the weeds focusing on the tools we’ll use to deliver it.