Policy mashed

One of the key challenges for a junior minister is finding the areas in your brief where a mastery of the detail can make a difference to the direction of travel a particular policy is taking.

I’m halfway through “The Power of Information” report by Ed Mayo and Tom Steinberg – a fascinating look at how public information can be presented in a way that makes life just that little bit easier and gets things to work just that little bit better. As the authors say:

“When enough people can collect, re-use and distribute public sector information, people organise around it in new ways, creating new enterprises and new communities. In each case, these are designed to offer new ways of solving old problems. In the past, only large companies, government or universities were able to re-use and recombine information. Now, the ability to mix and ‘mash’ data is far more widely available.”

An example of this is My Society’s travel time maps. Transport time and mapping data has been “mixed and mashed” to help people work out their commute times. It’s an example of how a bit of thinking from the hive using freely available public sector data can make life just that little bit better.

It also proves beyond doubt that if you want to commute to Westminster in under 45 minutes and live in a relatively cheap flat, move to Deptford.


I still have a lot more reading to do but if you have an interest in this field, I’d be delighted to hear your views.

5 thoughts on “Policy mashed”

  1. Having tried to build mapping applications in the charity sector and been told by the Royal Mail that I need a £5,000 annual subscription to license the post code database – information, by the way, that some of our council clients actually collect for the RM – I can not support too strongly the work of MySociety. There seems to be a short term focus by Government on some departments and services paying their way, which is understandable, but the opportunities that arise with more liberal (not necessarily a free-for-all) licensing and better access to some of these data sets, are potentially huge.

    If I were a new Junior Minister 🙂 trying to make an impact in this area, I might do worse than offer MySociety a (large) sum of money to go off and create a whole swathe of demonstrators, to prove concept in a wide number of areas of government – citizen interaction. If they would have it, of course.

  2. I spent Saturday participating in BarCampUKGovweb at Google HQ with 80 or so other people, including a few from mySociety, talking about how the public sector can use the internet better. About half the people were civil servants and half interested voluntary sector, private sector and private individuals. But not one politician!

    You can see more information at: http://www.pageflakes.com/barcampukgovweb/

    Come and join in. We’re planning another event in the spring, so stick your name down when the time comes.

  3. Hi Tom (or should that be Minister?)

    Can we at Public Sector Forums be the first to offer congrats on taking on Gillian Merron’s mantle as minister for T-Gov.

    We’ve put in requests into the Central Office of Information about under the Freedom of Information Act about how it is taking forward the Power of Information Review – its responses are published on our site here (gov.uk access only). Hope this helps you.


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