Reboot Britain: We need open government interfaces

Very excitingly, Wired UK got in touch a few weeks ago to ask if I’d write a piece for this month’s feature, Reboot Britain. I wrote about open interfaces to government services: essentially, APIs for the government systems that underlie public services. Unfortunately, the article didn’t make it into the magazine because there wasn’t enough space. Disappointing, but it was still great to be asked, and they’ve published it online. From the article: Many of us have been campaigning for open government data for a long time, and I think we’ve won the argument. By the time you’re reading this, data.hmg.gov.uk – a central listings service for government data – should be live. But data taken alone rarely creates real, tangible change in the world. Data alone doesn’t get your rubbish recycled or your prescription filled. You need data to find out how or where to do those things, but ...(Read More)

Ernest Marples: the first month

Well, it’s nearly been a month since Richard Pope and I launched ErnestMarples.com at OpenTech 2009. The site offers a free API to convert postcodes into latitude and longitude coordinates. This is an important thing to be able to do: the postcode is a de facto standard for specifying locations on the web. Any site that needs to know your location will ask for your postcode — from mapping, to political engagement, to useful local services. Unfortunately, the Royal Mail owns the postcode database, and maintains a stranglehold on it. They won’t let you use it for a website unless you pay them exorbitant fees (£1000+). This might be ok if you’re a big company, but lots of the most useful services aren’t. Those people have no choice but to use whatever data they can find on the web — something which, among other things, is very inconvenient. We decided ...(Read More)