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The Gen-Y of data mashers: using what the government gave you


As more and more data becomes available to the public online, how we present and use this information becomes increasingly important. Now young people are getting involved to create a generation of data mashers.

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Young Rewired State was a two-day project in London focused on technophile 15-18 year-olds encouraging them to construct something new and innovative from government-released data.

Held at Google HQ in London, Victoria, young people worked in teams with an expert Rewired State mentor to produce a practical project focusing on presenting government data in a way which will help local schools, towns and communities.

One example came from young developer Stephen, who incorporated data on local crime into a Google map of routes to a school – allowing choice of alternatie routes to school. He used data from news, blogs and police records in the area and created a data mashup.

Mentor, Chris, said:

“By giving out information to the public you find solutions and you find ideas that you never thought of before. You find people that actually build a visualisation of your information that makes much more sense than what you see in the newspapers for example. It’s also just finding connections that other people haven’t thought of.”

You can see the full video documenting the Young Rewired State project here:

The Rewired State initiative started because a bunch of developers felt the government were doing a pretty poor job of presenting public sector data and research – and they thought they could do it better. Earlier this year, they ran a hack-day at the Guardian offices, encouraging 80 developers to rewrite government data online in a new and more accessible ways – such as the Jobcentre Pro Plus site as a complete rewrite of the existing Job Centre plus site.

There has been an increasing amount of government data made available online – and a group who encourage developers to come forward with their own ideas for data mashing are always to be commended.

Another service offering such encouragement comes from the government itself. OpenPSI is a community provisioned information service – encouraging collaboration between research communities, the public sector and intermediaries who mash-up the data to reproduce it online in a creative way for public access. The site is the brainchild of University of Southampton and the UK government. It lists a number of data sets already available – such as the MPs Expenses forms which were published earlier this year by the Guardian, as well as the Ordnance Survey Divisions for Great Britain.

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