Are we missing the bus on Gov 2.0 data?

Are we missing the bus on Gov 2.0 data?

Summary: A popular Sydney Buses app died when Sydney Transit cut off the data feed after just a few weeks, citing lack of server capacity. Developer Ben Hosken is disappointed, but he's more concerned that developers aren't making enough use of the government data on offer.

SHARE:

A popular Sydney Buses app died when Sydney Transit cut off the data feed after just a few weeks, citing lack of server capacity. Developer Ben Hosken is disappointed, but he's more concerned that developers aren't making enough use of the government data on offer.

Hosken, who heads up Flink Labs, created the app for the apps4nsw 2011 competition in February. Despite the app's web page scoring 200,000 page views over the three weeks in which it was active, he knew that the live bus location data would only be available for the duration of the competition — and he understands that serving out data reliably isn't as easy as you might first think.

On Patch Monday this week, Hosken tells the story of the Sydney Buses app, and explains why he's concerned that the various government apps competitions and hackfests might come to nothing.

"If government organisations publish this data — at a cost, because someone's got to do something, and it's not just this particular set but any of these sets that are made available — if they publish them and people don't create applications that are then useful for others with them, a year down the track, two years down the track, the government in all its forms looks back and goes, 'What happened with this initiative where we published this data?' and someone says, 'Oh, there was a spike of interest around a hack day and someone won ten grand and an iPad, and then nothing'," he said.

We also hear from two developers with some thoughts on what's involved in making use of government data. As you'll hear, it's not just about the technology, but also bureaucracy and politics.

Benno Rice is a freelance systems architect based in Melbourne, and Adrian Chadd is from the Perth-based consultancy Xenion. Both have some interesting suggestions.

There's also my usual look at some of last week's news headlines.

To leave an audio comment on the program, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733.

Running time: 38 minutes, 14 seconds

Topics: Apps, Government, Government AU

About

Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust.

He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit trap, clear a jam in an IBM model 026 card punch and mix a mean whiskey sour.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

3 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • The data in it's then-current state was never intense to remain available after the apps4nsw competition date.

    The license (http://bgil.es/vi) that the data was made under says the following:
    "The RTA is providing sample real-time bus arrival data (Data) for use as part of the Apps4NSW development day to give participants the opportunity to develop practical, easy to use applications incorporating the Data. The Data is only being made available by the RTA under this licence agreement for use as part of the Apps4NSW development day, which is scheduled to conclude on 19 February 2011."

    Shortly after the competition ended, I sent an email to Transport NSW asking about the future of the data, and I received this response in April:
    "Real-time bus data released for apps4nsw 2011
    As a pilot, RTA released a sample of real-time bus arrival information for selected bus stops for the apps4nsw 2011 on Saturday 19 February 2011 hosted by Department of Services, Technology and Administration.
    The sample pilot data was released temporarily for apps4nsw 2011 and was not developed as a production ready system that could provide a reliable or sustainable feed. Consequently, the temporary feed is not available at this time.
    Transport NSW is working to present real-time bus information data for Transport Info 131500 and third parties. This process will ensure the data is in an international standard format, robust with appropriate infrastructure for the anticipated demand.
    Transport NSW remains committed to working with third parties and providing data to developers. More information on the release of this data will be provided later this year.
    Currently, Transport NSW provides timetable data to third parties for free through the NSW Public Transport Data Exchange (TDX) program since September 2009. This program provides transport data feed to interested companies and individuals on a ‘Creative Commons’ licence. See below for details about program.
    http://www.131500.com.au/transport-data-exchange-program/nsw-public-transport-data-exchange-tdx-program"
    BeauGiles-40dd7
  • This is essentially the same statement from NSW Dept of Transport that's read out in the podcast.
    stilgherrian
  • The data was discontinued on the eve of the NSW State Election in March. It's such a shame that the new government hasn't resumed it.
    mike_boyd