by Jeremy Kirk

Boris Johnson opens London data for competition

Jan 07, 2010
GovernmentIT StrategyMedia and Entertainment Industry

London Mayor Boris Johnsonis releasing large amounts of previously unavailable data about the city.

The Mayor has teamed up with Channel 4, which will offer up to £100,000 funding to two companies or individuals who have good ideas for creating products or applications using the London data.

Johnson is launching the initiative at “London Datastore” the Consumer Electronics Show in Last Vegas along with Aneesh Chopra , President Barack Obama’s chief technology officer, and Linda Cureton, the chief Information officer for NASA.

The mayor’s office compared the project to “Apps for Democracy,” a contest held last year by Washington, D.C., for developers to build applications using the district’s data catalog.

“We’re after ideas that transform rows of numbers into accessible formats – maps that show crime in your area, a mobile app that tells you how many police patrols operate on your street or an image that can illustrate the recycling rates in your borough,” according to the Channel 4’s 4iP blog.

The Greater London Authorityhas posted around 50 sets of data to the Datastore so far, with plans to increase that to 200.

The data sets will be diverse, including: abortion rates, census data, winter deaths, obese children figures, influenza rates, ratio of house prices to earnings, train overcrowding and the number of vacant dwellings. The store will fully open on January 29, the city said.

The data formats on the site so far vary. For example, for information on “Ambulance Call Outs to Animal Attack Incidents,” the Datastore links to a comma separated values file, which could be loaded into Microsoft’s Excel or’s Calc spreadsheet programs. That data is also in an XML (Extensible Markup Language) format.

Other data, such as the expense report for the mayor’s office, are available in PDF (Portable Document Format) and RTF (Rich Text Format).

In an earlier, less publicised incarnation of the Datastore, the data was presented in a Google Docs format, which the city said “enables developers to plug straight into the data” using an API (application programming interface).