John Lenders, Victorian Minister for Information & Communications Technology, has just announced “App my State” mashup competition with $100,000 worth of prizes. It will be officially launched in late February so full details are not yet known.
It is a third such initiative within within a period of 5 months. First off the rank was Government 2.0 Taskforce with Mashup Australia competition (I featured many entries on this blog in a series of posts: winners of mashup competition or highlights part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4). Then late last year NSW government announced its own version of the contest: Apps4NSW (initially it was scheduled to end by 6th February but deadline was extended til 22nd March to allow more time for student entries). Other States will inevitably follow soon, not to be outdone.
Despite all of these initiatives and associated drive to free government data under Creative Commons licence, we are yet to notice any impact on the availability of useful applications. Majority of data released so far via, for example, data.australia.gov.au portal or data.nsw is only of marginal information value and mostly not in “ready reusable” formats. (How about property sales or vehicle registrations stats, Guys? Or cadastre boundaries and address database? That would really show your commitment to the cause! Otherwise it is just playing on the fringes...)
The benefits of all those competitions to the community and organisers will be directly related to the quality of data supplied. The two portals mentioned above highlight however one enormous problem that many tried to solve in the past , with various level of success: that is, consistent cataloguing and description of available data (via structured and standard compliant metadata) and simple way of discovering what is available (thematically as well as geographically). Google may offer some assistance in addressing this issue with simple yet powerful concept, as suggested by Ed Parsons. However, there is even bigger problem that should be addressed in the first place – national consistency of available information! You only need to look at how bushfire information is disseminated by each State to howl in despair… but it only requires 8 guys/galls to find a common ground. Maybe some money could be spent on such initiatives rather than on competitions where participants have access to only marginal value data?