Case Studies/App My State
The Victorian Government has committed to open access as its default position, but acknowledges that it will require a "fundamental shift in the attitude and thinking of Victoria’s public servants". But the good news is the snowball has started rolling! — ‘App My State’ Blog http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/app-my-state/blog/9519-welcome.html
The Victorian Government’s firm commitment to the introduction of free use and sharing of government data and information follows a worldwide trend for government information to be freely provided to the public without default copyright restrictions. The movement towards free use and sharing of government information has recognised the advantages of using a Creative Commons licence to allow the public manipulation of government information while retaining rights such as attribution.
To coincide with the release of a large number of data sets through an online central repository (http://data.vic.gov.au/), the Victorian Government recognised the benefits in setting up a competition to demonstrate the use of public information for the benefit of the community. The competition titled ‘App My State’ follows a proliferation of similar competitions throughout the world where governments have invited the public to create apps for creative use of information they post in open and accessible formats.
‘App My State’ offers a range of cash prizes totaling $100 000 for the ‘best app’ and includes prizes for posting the ‘best ideas’ if the entrant lacks the technical expertise or time to develop the app themselves. There has been a worldwide groundswell in competitions to support practical use of public information, including similar competitions recently staged in Australia.
There is evidence from other jurisdictions that the social and economic benefits from releasing public data far outweighs the cost.
'To be useful information must be findable. Then it must be practically useable. Generally speaking, where an asset already exists, the most economically efficient price to make it available to others is the marginal cost of doing so. In the age of the internet that marginal cost of distribution of PSI typically approaches zero. Thus in the absence of good reasons to the contrary, in the world of the internet, PSI should be free—that is distributed gratis, at zero price.' Government 2.0 Taskforce Report, p. 40. (http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/gov20taskforcereport/)
Evidence even suggests the benefits of competitions such as ‘App My State’ also far outweigh the cost and represent an effective information and marketing process.
‘The first edition of ‘Apps for Democracy’ yielded 47 web, iPhone and Facebook apps in 30 days - a $2,300,000 value to the city at a cost of $50,000’ (http://www.appsfordemocracy.org/)
‘Open access to Public Service Information (PSI) represents an important opportunity for the Victorian Government to increase its engagement with the community and to realise a range of social and economic benefits.’ Whole of Victorian Government Response to the Final Report of the Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee’s Inquiry into Improving Access to Victorian Public Sector Information and Data © Government of Victoria, 2009, p. 28. Licensed under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/au/ (http://www.diird.vic.gov.au/diird-projects/access-to-public-sector-information)
The Victorian Government has announced its move to provide government data and information under a Creative Commons licence. The data released through the government’s central repository is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia licence. Apart from attribution required under the licence, there are no restrictions with respect to the sharing or use of the information.
This licence provides users entering the competition a high level of certainty regarding use and manipulation of Victorian Government data provided through the central repository. The competition 'FAQs' recommends use only of data from the central repository, however competition terms and conditions allows use of data from third party sources, as long as the user has cleared all rights with respect to copyright and intellectual property.
This follows the recommendations of the Australian Government’s 2.0 Taskforce for government to develop policies to maximise the extent to which existing PSI be relicensed Creative Commons BY, taking account of undue administrative burden this may cause for agencies. Recommendation 6.5 of the Government 2.0 Taskforce Report, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia licence (http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/gov20taskforcereport/recommendations.htm#a6)
Victoria is Australia’s second most populous state and known for its infatuation with arts and culture - including sporting events. The state recently received worldwide attention as a result of a series of devastating and tragic bushfires on 7 February 2009 (to become known as ‘Black Saturday’). Almost 200 people lost their lives and thousands of homes were lost - whole regional communities ceased to exist.
The Victorian Government received criticism about its approach and an independent Royal Commission was established to investigate the circumstances that led to the catastrophe. An interim report tabled in August 2009 framed a number of recommendations around the use of technology and government information, and the timely dissemination in the event of an emergency.
Some seven months prior to Black Saturday, the Victorian Government had commenced its formal public consultation process examining issues surrounding the application of open content and open sources licensing to improve access to government information and data. It completed its parliamentary inquiry into ‘Improving Access to Victorian Public Sector Information and Data’ in June 2009, which coincided with similar developments in other states and at the federal level.
The inquiry led to 46 recommendations being considered, the key recommendations of interest to this case study endorsed as follows: - The release a public statement indicating that the Victorian Government endorses open access as the default position for the management of its public sector information. - The development of a hybrid licensing system that uses Creative Commons as the default. (http://www.diird.vic.gov.au/diird-projects/access-to-public-sector-information)
In accordance with risk reduction strategies and potential consequences, the best use of public information would be for the preservation of human life. It follows that when entries for ‘App My State’ close in April 2010, an app coordinating critical data relating to bushfire information (both prevention and warning) will be valued highly. What difference such an app would have made on ‘Black Saturday’ is a matter for public debate (blog).
Other app competitions based on public information include:
The New South Wales Government's 'apps4nsw' closes 10 March 2010 and encourages entrants to share their work under a flexible and permissive licence such as ‘MIT License, New and Simplified BSD License, General Public License (GPL), or Mozilla’ (but failed to include Creative Commons licensing). (http://www.information.nsw.gov.au/apps4nsw)
‘Mash up Australia’ funded by as part of the Australian Government’s 2.0 Taskforce (http://mashupaustralia.org/)
‘Apps for Democracy’ in Canada (http://www.appsfordemocracy.org/)
New York City (http://www.nycbigapps.com/)
Similar competitions have been arranged in Finland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
‘App My State’ has been publicly supported in a blog posted by Alan Noble, Engineering Director, Google Australia and New Zealand. (http://google-au.blogspot.com/2010/03/victoria-lands-90-new-innovation.html)
Other references to apps developed from public information
“Apps for Democracy produced more savings for the D.C. government than any other initiative.” − Vivek Kundra, former CTO of Washington, DC and current Federal CIO (http://www.appsfordemocracy.org) (http://vimeo.com/4450950)
‘Technology can be a powerful tool for helping people work together, sharing best practices and enabling communities. TOPP builds software, new media outlets, and other tools that bring democracy closer to its potential.’ (http://openplans.org/) ￼ ‘Open311 is a form of technology that provides open channels of communication for issues that concern public space and public services. Primarily, Open311 refers to a standardized technology for location-based collaborative issue-tracking. By offering free web API access to an existing 311 service, Open311 is an evolution of the phone-based 311 systems that many cities in North America offer.’ (http://open311.org/) ￼
‘Apps for America is Sunlight's annual development contest! Prizes go to developers who can use data from Sunlight and our partners that makes Congress more accountable, interactive and transparent.’ (http://www.sunlightlabs.com/contests/appsforamerica/)