Rees opens govt data to developers

NSW Premier Nathan Rees has announced a data feed for RailCorp information, putting an end to the saga that had led to a developer being threatened with legal action for his use of train times in an iPhone application.

NSW Premier Nathan Rees has announced a data feed for RailCorp information, which he hopes will signal the start of much more government information being made available.

Rees speaking at NSW Public Sphere
(Credit: Neerav Bhatt)

"Governments have to overcome old habits of secrecy and control," he said today at NSW Public Sphere, an event hosted by NSW MP and Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Penny Sharpe to discuss how technology can foster openness in government. "We've got to be interactive," he continued. "The old one-way street style of politics has to go."

The RailCorp data feed puts an end to a saga that led to a developer being threatened legal action for his use of train arrival times in an iPhone application.

"I spoke to the transport minister and we couldn't find any reason to withhold the data, especially given that RailCorp doesn't offer an equivalent service and this information actually belongs to the people of NSW," Rees said.

"Like every good tale, there is a happy ending," he continued. "After a bit of technical and legal work, I'm delighted to say a trial data feed started last Monday, with a full feed to start on September 21."

Rees spoke about how government needed to use the Web 2.0 tools that the "technological revolution" had brought. "We must enlist these Web 2.0 technologies in the cause of democracy and freedom," Rees said.

He launched a competition to help the use of such technologies in government called "apps4nsw". The competition offers prizes worth $100,000 for people to create ideas and software that uses government data for applications. The prizes will be judged by an expert panel, although there will also be a People's Choice award.

Anything developed in the competition will be open source, freely available for use by both the government and the public.

The government's journey to openness would require time, he said, with no big bang, but promised better engagement from the government. "I've made a start by getting on Twitter and YouTube, plus having message boards for each region on our State Plan website," he said.

"But Twitter is no use if you just tell people what you've had for breakfast," he continued. "It has to be a forum for real issues and real problems."