July 28th, 2008 | Published in Google Public Policy
Here in the UK, government consultations that involve the public in the process of making new laws and regulations are two a penny, but it's unusual for them to come with £20,000 of prize money attached.
The Minister for the Cabinet Office in the UK Government recently launched such a competition -- called Show Us a Better Way -- which has already received over 200 entries.
The government's site is designed to illustrate potential web applications using public sector information, such as statistics, maps, or event listings. Through these examples, the Government will crystalise the case for improving the accessibility of that information. This is vital because, while the aim is noble, the technical means of achieving such accessibility are usually difficult to explain, and quickly induce glazed expressions on the faces of citizens and politicians alike. See, for example, issues like marginal cost pricing and XML schemas.
In contrast, many of the suggestions on the site are both useful, and rooted in the everyday experience of citizens, like bus arrival times on your phone, house prices correlated with commuting maps or better information about crime hotspots.
This is the latest innovative step in the international efforts to demonstrate the value and power that public information has when it is combined with the enterprising and open spirit of the web -- a spirit which Google wholeheartedly supports.