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Now we've got the data, how can we use it?

After advising the UK Government on the release of huge quantities of public data, ECS Professor Nigel Shadbolt is now encouraging people to come up with innovative ways of putting the data to use.

Professor Shadbolt is one of the panellists of judges in the OpenUp competition which is searching for the best ideas for information services that use government data. Anyone is invited to contribute – parents, students, businesspeople, GPs, local government officers – in fact anyone who has ever needed to use a piece of government information.

Data.gov.uk, the public data website launched in January 2010 as a result of the work of University of Southampton Professors Shadbolt and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has provided huge amounts of information and statistics on business, crime, education, transport, health, and housing, but it is not yet available in ways that make it easy for the general public to access or use.

The OpenUp competition is offering a top prize of £1000 and £50,000 for subsequent development for the best idea which will then be developed into an application.

Professor Shadbolt told Computer Weekly: “We have lots of data becoming available and the obvious question is what value is there locked up in this data? Governments and businesses are not always the best places to go to find out the answer.”

Improving knowledge of their environment and services for UK citizens has been a driving force in the data release, but the positive effects for business of releasing the data are also a driving force.

Earlier this year Professors and Shadbolt commented in The Guardian: “Re-use of data in new - and often unexpected - ways creates both social value and opportunities for economic growth. It's not our job to say where data might be useful; it's our job to unleash it and allow businesses and independent developers to build innovative services which they can then deliver to users.”

The OpenUp competition is created and funded by The Stationery Office to generate greater widespread interest in information now publicly available through data.gov.uk. TSO want to encourage the British public “To mash up public data for the greater good of your community” and demonstrate significant benefits of how this information can be put to use for the UK public now that it is open to all.

The panel of judges include experts with experience of business, government and the media, including Charles Arthur, Technology Editor of The Guardian, and Emma Mulqueeny, Founding Director of Rewired State Ltd.


Professor Nigel Shadbolt is a member of the Intelligence, Agents, Multimedia (IAM) research group in the School of Electronics and Computer Science; if you are interested in PhD research in the group, see our Postgraduate Admissions pages for further information.

For further information about this story contact Joyce Lewis; tel.+44(0)23 8059 5453.

Posted by Joyce Lewis on 07 Sep 2010.