Monday, April 22, 2024

Mashups in government

Simon Grice @simongrice from recently asked me a few questions on mashups, so I thought I’d include the compilation of information I found on this blog.

By Liz Azyan , in General , at January 10, 2009 Tags: , ,


Simon Grice @simongrice from recently asked me a few questions on mashups, so I thought I’d include the compilation of information I found on this blog. Though the information might not be complete, I hope to get some feedback. So feel free to leave your comments. Sorry this post is a long one.  Please take your time to read it.

Examples of mashups in government from UK and International

1. UK – Best examples can be found on ‘Show us a better way’ website where the UK Government’s “The Power of Information Taskforce” setup this competition for the public to create “better ways to publish the vast swathes of non-personal information that the government collects & creates on your behalf”.


Click theses links for:

Latest ideas, Current implementations and the winners of “Show us a better way” .

Below are some other specific examples grabbed from other sources.

  1. Accesscity – A site developed by ‘the man with brilliant ideas’, Mr Dominic Campbell at FutureGov Consultancy who also runs Enabled by Design. The site enables a user-generated view of London (in the first instance, but with the ability to be rolled out nationally and beyond) from an accessibility perspective.
  2. From virtual worlds, to CoPs and ‘mash-ups’ – Kent County Council is using all of these to promote knowledge management. Carol Patrick, Kent’s Head of Innovation, talks to Juno Baker about empowering members and residents to use web 2.0 technologies for knowledge management (KM).
  3. – brill new gmaps mashup. This website is an improved interface for live bus times in the UK. It works by combining real time updates from local authorities with a searchable database of bus stops across the country. You can search for a bus stop by name, locate it on a map or browse by bus routes or locality to find the stop you need. If you’re on the move, you can also receive updates direct to your mobile through the traveline-txt service. Just find your bus stop on, note down its SMS phrase (e.g. oxfadaja) and follow the instructions carefully. Messages can cost up to 25p on top of your operator’s usual SMS charges, so make sure you fully understand the terms.If live updates aren’t available or convenient, most routes also link to scheduled timetables, courtesy of traveline. is not affiliated with traveline, any local authorities, bus companies, or the Department for Transport and is freely provided as an alternative to existing services. The maps are not yet working in Internet Explorer.
  4. School league table map mashup: a breakthrough for e-government

Picked up from comments on

  1. Journey On – Brighton & Hove’s travel information portal allows users to plan cycle (or other) journeys by address, post code or just clicking a point on the map. Cycle or walk journeys take gradients and ability into account. Results, including a gradient map are displayed on Google Maps using locally captured data for off road routes and provide time, distance, calories and carbon footprint.
  2. Camcycle – This website lets you view/add Cambridge cycling-related photos and plan journeys.
  3. Junkk – In case anyone is interested in the opportunities presented by reuse, you may fancy trying.
  4. Recycle Now – Does exactly as one of the winners Can I recycle it?
  5. Cycling England – Journey Planners for cyclers
  6. Open Cycle Map – By Dave Stubbs and Andy Allan using community data.
  7. Cyclist Nexus – Route mapping site from the USA
  8. Journey Check
  9. New Popular Edition Maps – Have a look around, and see what the country looked like in the 1940s.
  10. Bike Map – Map your favorite tracks – or find new route ideas. For training, holidays or excursion planning. Currently there are 58,771 Bike routes with a total length of 4,262,045 km.
  11. Postboxr – PostBoxr is a FREE site that let’s users search, browse or contribute by adding their known postboxes to a map, powered by Google Maps.
  12. Locating Postboxes – The Royal Mail supplied a list of every postbox’s location – unfortunately, it did not have useful co-ordinates, only postcodes or sub-postcodes and some textual data. So I wrote this site: look up the postboxes near you by entering the first half of your postcode, locate one whose location you know on the map, pick which postbox you’ve located, and submit. The pages also include postbox last collection times, if we know them.
  13. Sit or Squat – A place to find or record bathrooms anywhere in the world.
  14. Sat Lav brought to you by City of Westminster
  15. Electronic Local Government Information Network – The Elgin website provides an up-to-date map of current and planned road works for a large area of the UK. Elgin is operated by Jacobs on behalf of participating local authorities click here for the full list. The information on Elgin is kept current by automatic data feeds from local authorities’ back office systems. Elgin also exchanges road works information with similar systems managed by the Highway Agency and Transport for London.
  16. UK Schools Map (showing where the UK’s schools are – building on data released for the competition by the Department for Children, Schools and Families);
  17. School Guru – You can find the best schools in your area, by using the School Selector. Then the Admission Calculator will tell you whether you would have got in, on allocation day, in recent years.
  18. Where is the path with an Ordnance Survey map and Google Maps satellite picture of any spot
  19. UK Wreck Map showing the location of undersea wrecks around Britain’s coast.

Websites discussing mashups on “Show us a better way”

2. International – Programmable Web currently offers a great collection of government mashups that you  can find here. And this post found on Mashable called 17 Killer Mashups for Taking Control of Your Government also has a good list of the Washington DC government Apps for Democracy contest.
So what are the good and bad examples of mashups in government? Its hard to list which are good and bad as one can see the good in a mashup while others might not. This is all down to ones need for it in their everyday life.

3. Other example of mashups from the Yahoo Developers Mashup List

4. Other examples of mashups using Google Maps

Good mashups.

  1. Good mashups generally are those that come from citizens/developers who understand the problems faced by citizens. Good mashups ‘should help solve everyday problems’ as Paul Giazowski would say.
  2. A good mashup should definitely be a simple one that everybody could use.

A good example would be – a combination of google maps with real estate listings from craiglist. Take a really well known service such as craiglist and the most popular service within craiglist and ‘walla’, you’ve created a very useful mashup.

Bad mashups …

this is a hard one to answer.

Well  at first I told myself, could that be possible? A bad mashup? Aren’t mashup suppose to be good things? Well then I took a closer look and discovered that it is possible to have bad mashups! Bad mashups can be determined by a few pointers:

  • If the information is inaccurate.
  • If it doesn’t allow public to post updates or feedback on the service
  • Doesn’t serve its purpose – already have a more reliable mashup available, more duplication of data  instead of improving on what is already available. This can be a waste of resources.

What are my views on how government could use mashups for service delivery? Ideas, views and examples.

I feel that e-government in the UK has gone through many stages of implementations. We went from brochure style to transactional websites. And now we’ve come to a stage where we are just exhausted by endless amount of information that we can’t seem to find our way around it anymore. There are currently no conversations to how the data and the lives of citizens connect with each other. Or at least not known to the average public who are online. Government websites are like a maze of information for the average citizen and most of the times they shy away from finding information on those websites and prefer to go to others. So mashups can be really useful to take that information and dispersing it in more innovative packages. Of course good examples are FixMyStreet, rateyourprison and are really useful and even attractive to use as they are simple and uncluttered. I personally think the projects done by are successful because they encourage 3 things:-

  1. Transparency
  2. Efficiency
  3. Result

If government mashups can deliver these 3 things at the end of the day for an average citizen, then it would have served its purpose. Information is a powerful tool if it is delivered in a manner that is relatable to the users experience of worries, needs and frustrations and the need for social action, then it can become a meaningful service to its users. And meaningful services can be built upon by users input to better the service in the true sense of wikinomics. The main problem in government opening up is the fear of losing control. So if the government were to create a ‘meaningful service’, passionate users will help to give feedback to better the service instead of criticizing it.

Experience (Worry+Need+Frustration+SocialAction) = Creates Meaningful service + Passionate to help better the service

  • Say if a cycling mashup was able to tell someone the route they take at a particular time of the day will be raining or was closed due to an accident, then it will have served its purpose to avoid problems with weather and roadblocks.
  • Say if there was an accident on your train route and you were alerted of travel updates before you got on the train on the day of an important meeting, then it would saved you the hassle of being late.
  • BBC Berkshire Flood Map. This is an good example of how mashups can help here

There are alot of great ideas out there, but how many of them are tackling the real problems in communities? Here are some good examples:-

  1. House bidding systems – Government can enhance delivery by mashing up the house bidding system with google maps and house/flat swap functions.
  2. Hospitals – Mashups on nearest hospitals locations, which specialists are available and best ways to get there at different times of the day with google maps and satnav apps.
  3. View or experience life through video and google maps – locals and visitors can view town or high street via video with walk through of town main facilities and estimated time and available transports.
  4. Google maps showing where donations are going made for specific purposes according to location.
  5. Example: Breast cancer information – A map of their local area to find support groups, treatment and screening centers and events relating to breast cancer.
  6. Example: Mapping Health Equality in California: Harnessing the power of interactive maps for social change.
  7. Healthcare that works – In 2006 these people created a map showing that New Yorkers who live in predominantly minority communities face greater geographic barriers to accessing a hospital than those who live in predominantly white communities. The map also highlights the fact that six of the eight hospitals that closed between 1995 and 2005 were located in or near communities of color.
  8. Computers  for the underprivileged – Overcoming the digital divide by notifying public areas that are in most need of computer equipment and giving contact details on how to donate unused computers.
  9. Identify where homeless people most need help so resources can be allocated accordingly – combining research, maps and input from support organizations (charities) with information and resources.
  10. Create a platform for social action where projects or campaigns to help specific purposes according to location and skills needed can obtain volunteers searching for projects to work on in their free time.
  11. Collect donations for local charities through Twitter and Facebook by location.
  12. Volunteer by text and current location.
  13. Connect mashup developers and ideas by location.
  14. Develop access to all the legislation, voting records, analytic tools, district maps, charts and graphs. You’ll get to connect with other members, discuss issues, and rally for support.

Other than service deliveries

I feel the government should really emphasize mashup ideas on local issues. Therefore local government can take a cue and start developing more localised activities that involved the community at heart that do not serve a specific service but a show of goodwill for the community it serves.. Encouraging people to work, live and learn closer to home. This fits in well with the the problems we have today with our environment and credit crunch. If we travel less, we use our cars less and spend less. If we work closer to home, we spend less on travel and we have more time for our families and friends. If we shop at our local stores (not typical high street shops), we help local businesses and create more jobs. If we know more of events going on within a 5 or 10 mile radius of our homes, then we can go to them and see familiar faces in the community and increase social capital. Also encourage connecting bloggers in your area can increase the sense of community and belonging in this digital world and increase the likelihood of more face-to-face interaction in communities. And what about landsharing, swapping land for food. Also not to forget creating mashups for visitors of the local area, giving them information about public transport and other public services.

So what mashups can allow this to happen?

Ideas to encourage localism, sense of community-

  1. Jobs – Mashup local jobs with google maps.
  2. Clothes swap – i.e.Find another size 12 female on facebook, twitter and through google maps, in your area to swap clothes or even donate clothes.
  3. Blogs – Mashup local bloggers with google maps, Flickr and Facebook
  4. Events – Mashup local events with google maps and eventful
  5. Find local twitters – Mashup Google maps and twitter
  6. Best places to eat and shop locally – Rate restaurants and local shops with google maps.
  7. Emergencies – Local community officer or local police officer with text services with HELP text service in emergency with Google Maps to locate position
  8. Emergencies – Use Twitter information from local people to update on emergencies.
  9. Visitors – Giving direction to bus routes for visitor attractions with google maps and local events with eventful.
  10. Skills swap – Swap or barter skills with another resident in the area according to profession mashed up with LinkedIn and Facebook or Twitter to save money on calling for service. Eg. IT repair for plumbing service.
  11. Garden allotment – I think this is already being done which is great – landshare and landfit (not mashup but good idea).

I also feel mashups can encourage the uptake of the use of social media currently being implemented in local government. They enhance the benefits of its usage and creates a more exciting outlet for government services.

Please let me know if there are any broken links.

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  • Thanks for linking to our article. I particularly found useful the last section on using mashups to tackle local problems – the way we’re going to use mashups is providing the tools to enable residents to create their own (and even more importantly be able to share them with others who may find benefit from them too), and monitoring what everyday issues they create mashups to help solve.

    But I there may be a difference between what people or community groups want to solve and the wider cross cutting issues that councils need to tackle – there also needs to be ways where people creating mashups and councils can connect to support each other in this?

    • Hi Noel,
      Thanks for your comments. I am also interested in the issues you have raised. What is in your opinion or your council are the cross cutting issues that councils need to tackle? It is definitely going to be hard to find the connection between what people want and what the council aims to achieve. Possibly together we can find a way to align these 2 goals together and not only tackle those issues that councils confronted with, but also educate the public on how these issues can affect their everyday lives. Two heads are always better than one! Look forward to hearing from you! Very interested to know your views.

      Liz Azyan

  • […] Azyan wrote a good post recently about Mashups in Government. This covers work from mySociety and other parties, in the area of exploiting Government data to […]

  • That would deserve a programme of research work in itself, but I think visualising what people mash up information with could give us a better idea on some of the links between those issues, but also where collaboration should be happening on the ground btw councils & community groups (like with your idea for a homeless mashup).

  • Hi,

    I thought you might be interested in Open PSI, a collaboration between the University of Southampton and the UK government, lead by the National Archive, to trial a new form of community provisioned information service.

    we are trying to spark interaction between government
    information providers, academic researchers and information intermediaries, specifically to bridge the gap between those researchers who may not have all the technical skills or data knowledge to answer important research questions.

    We are exposing UK government data in the Semantic Web standards, RDF. We have SPARQL end point so data mashers can issue via query requests. This is a form of open API that allows mashups to be created quite quickly.