Archive for July, 2008
The New Zealand Geospatial Office quietly sprung onto the Internet in the last 24 hours. Good to see they provide a couple of RSS feeds that will be aggregated here in due course. The content management system for the website appears to be the free and open source Silverstripe. Even better is a news release promoting our feed aggregation that we recently set up here
Also noted is a significant update to the LINZ website (press release) and NZTopoOnline has also seen a refresh – although it is not immediately obvious what changes have been made to NZTopoOnline.
Laurence Millar, the Chief Information Officer for the NZ Government recently blogged about some thoughts around government data and Web 2.0. It is exciting to see someone in such a position of influence raise these issues, and hopefully lead the charge to promote change in government agency practices.
One angle I would like to extend upon, is Tim O’Reilly’s quote.
What if you don’t think of what you produce as the “final product” but rather as a step in an information pipeline, what do you do differently to add value for downstream consumers?
I think that this is a fundamental point that Government needs to get to grips with. When you look at government websites these days, most of them are designed around the philosophy of being just the terminal point of an information production chain – the result being information products expressed entirely in the form that the government agency ‘expects’ citizens to digest them. Most Government websites therefore only produce web pages, and pdf documents – they contain relatively little in raw data in a format that is more accessible for citizens. The exceptions of course are those agencies that have extensive mandates for publishing vast datasets such as Statistics New Zealand and Land Information New Zealand.
Laurence concludes his post with absolutely the correct next action required
…open up our content, expose our data so that it is easier to consume, rather than applying resources to redesign information dissemination. By creating objects that others can assemble we are likely to be significantly more successful at ensuring New Zealanders have access to the government information when, where and how they prefer.
A classic example is the recently released Atlas of Socioeconomic Deprivation in New Zealand (NZDep2006) published by the Ministry of Health. Whilst it contains a wealth of data, all of the downloadable forms from the website have been constricted by their publication in a read-only pdf format. The multitude of maps are all pdfs. The tables and reference information are in pdfs. This makes it near impossible to extract and utilise the data “when, where and how they prefer“. All is not lost however, I did contact MOH and they did provide a CD with a couple of hundreds MBs of data, including shapefiles for use within Geographical Information Systems. However, the licensing of the data is still somewhat unclear – Crown Copyright is not ideal terms, for example, to enable the republishing of the data by uploading it to a geospatial data hub such as Koordinates. What I mean to say is that it doesn’t allow automatic republishing without having to clarify conditions of use with the agency, in this case Health. If it were released under Creative Commons, then this would greatly speed the republication and disitrbution of the data. So, whilst the NZDep2006 data has been released, it is really not yet ready in prime time for wider Web 2.0 use.
This has also been replicated with Health’s Atlas of New Zealand’s District Health Boards. Using pdf’s to provide spatial data is admirable, but in this day of Google Maps or Earth – surely Government should be considering publishing data as KMZ’s or even live network services that can be loaded dynamically into a far richer and intuitive client than Adobe Acrobat.
Coming back to my point, SSC is certainly making all the right noises about where we should be going. However, right now, it appears to be left up to individuals like myself to actually go to agencies and say – “Hey, we’d actually like access to this data in a more reasonable format”.
What I would like to see is a mechanism whereby individuals such as myself, can instead approach SSC with a request to an agency, and the SSC will actually engage said agency to ensure agencies make said data available in a consistent manner across government.
I’m sure agencies would stand up and listen to someone making a request on behald of the Government CIO instead of a lone citizen or three. It would also mean that a consistent playbook could be promoted (Government Geospatial Information Web Access Guideline) that includes formats, hosting and most importantly licensing agreements by encouraging widespread adoption of the Creative Commons v3 NZ license.
For Government agencies to really start opening up their data, this needs to be driven from within Government, and only the SSC has the voice to be able to catalyse this process. Sure, individuals such as myself are engaging with success, and in some cases we’ll be able to obtain access – such as my recent win with Transit’s 2008 road survey trackpoint data. But for an individual to engage multiple agencies is very time consuming, and it is a slow process – especially when we are often cold calling and have to restate our case for publicly accessible data every time. And honestly, it is not something we as volunteers should have to be doing, this is really work that paid government personnel should be doing.
SSC needs to short-circuit this process by stepping up and creating an inter-agency mechanism to accept requests from citizens, and use the position of the SSC to engage, promote and ensure release of the data – whether spatial or not.
Rugby is under a load of pressure in New Zealand now, and a recently released independent report entitled Putting Rugby First raises interesting international concerns for the game.
The NZRFU and Graham Henry are now really starting to feel the pressure of public opinion come down on them as more and more people wonder about the sanity of letting Robbie Deans go to Australia. Sure, he has only won one game against the All Blacks, and that was in Australia, but if Robbie and the Wallabies beat the All Blacks at Eden Park this weekend – then I’m half expecting the NZRFU to implode under the pressure of the public spotlight.
This wouldn’t be so bad, but now the NZRFU is also feeling pressure from international angles with the public release of an independent report on the state of world rugby. I haven’t had a chance to read it in detail yet as this is a lunchtime blog post, but here is a killer quote from the Executive Summary.
Each World Cup is a rare opportunity to showcase the direction of rugby, open up new markets and create a lasting legacy in the host nation. The IRB has a responsibility to ensure that the hosting decision for the RWC makes the most of these opportunities. How, then, can the decision to award the 2011 RWC to New Zealand be explained? Looked at unsentimentally, it is a small country of limited commercial potential – the rugby market in New Zealand is saturated.
In the cold hard light, the decision to hold the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand is going to be bad for the game. It might be good for New Zealand, but rugby as a whole will suffer from this. Rugby as a spectacle needs to be taken to new countries, and to open up new markets.
On a personal note, I’m disappointed at the increasing efforts by the NZRFU to move more and more of the finals towards Auckland and away from the regions. Of course, the excuse given is that it is logistically difficult to move people around NZ – true, this is just recognising that New Zealand is not really capable of delivering a modern RWC.
As a one-eyed Cantabrian, the NZRFU has already lost Robbie Deans to the Wallabies, and I think that loss is going to haunt them when the RWC rolls around in 2011. I honestly don’t know who they hope to lead the All Blacks to victory at what is probably going to be our last home tournament for a very long time. Come September, if the NZRFU finals hosting decision overlooks the likes of Wellington and Christchurch, then I expect the combination of these two decisions by the NZRFU will have caused irrepairable damage to the game in New Zealand.
Late last week I stumbled across the Research e-Labs blog, that comprises part of the larger eGovernment efforts. They are currently consulting on the new eGovernment feed standard. They are proposing a move to Atom 1.0 as it appears to provide better mechanisms for semantically marking up the information contained in the feed. This is an exciting proposition, especially if they expand the defined tags to support reports and datasources – this is on top of the already defined news, jobs, consultation and events. They have a good presentation available too.
The Ministry of Health recently released the Altas of Socioeconomic Deprivation (NZDep2006). PDF maps are available from this Atlas’s homepage on the Ministry’s website, but shapefiles aren’t directly available from the website. A free CDROM is available that contains shapefiles – as well as all the reports. I received my CDROM a couple of days ago and it contains the following layers – CensusAreaUnit, DistrictHealthBoard, NZ_Outline,NZDep2006, and TerritorialAuthority.
Some very nice iPhone applications are making their way out now. This blog post is a test post from the WordPress app that is now available. It appears to offer tagging, catergories, offline writing and caching of posts. The funny thing is that the main uses I’ve got for iPhone is more computing and applications, and having a mobile phone is just an added convenience. It certainly packs a lot of power onto a small device! The increasing availabilty of apps such as WordPress are only going to make it moreso.
As someone that once spent a summer internship in Washington DC working for the DC Government, I really enjoyed living there. I was absolutely stoked to see this post on the Google Lat Long blog outlining why they are releasing over 84,000 3d buildings to Google Earth. I love the key points that Barney Krucoff, the GIS Manager for DC makes.
- It is the right thing to do.
- Because every neighborhood can benefit from 3D.
- We get better 3D performance from the cloud and we don’t pay for it.
- We want to communicate with our residents.
It kinda makes you sad to live in a country that doesn’t even see the value in being able to produce and maintain a national authoritative roading dataset, and here is local government saying – here is more than 200 geospatial datasets. Go for it. Download in ESRI or Google formats (I assume shapefile and KMZ). Not only that, but they appear to have a nice data warehouse for attribute data, as well as subscribable feeds for updates.
This is what is required for eGovernment – Government making the information available, in formats that support geospatial applications, with permissive licensing terms. It is also key to having residents take data and mash it up, and give it a life of its own. But that won’t happen until all the fundamental data about the places we live are released out into the electronic wilds.
This time it is BusinessWeek promoting the “Do-Good Imperative” – including free and open source software. There is also a sister article on collaborative map-making during emergencies using the likes of OpenStreetMap. Naturally, this is an area that we are working hard on building these geospatial capabilities into Sahana as well.
Open source and collaborative approachs are certainly starting to get the mainstream attention that they deserve. Now we just need funding to support these developments.
I’ve been wanting to post about this all day, but alas work. Now that I’m home I’ll attempt to summarise some thoughts on the iPhone pricing today.
Holy crap Vodafone is charging an arm and a leg for it, and that Vodafone NZ is making AT&T in the US look good, and that is saying something! Check out the following comment on TechCrunch that:
I’ve been hemming and hawing about doing this post since last week when AT&T revealed all the pricing info for the iPhone 3G. With the release of Vodafone NZ’s pricing today, I can no longer keep my mouth shut. The Kiwis are paying $190 for 1GB of data, 600 minutes, and 600 texts! I really want to know what you people are bitching and moaning about over AT&T’s plans? As far as I can see, it’s cheaper than every other country that’s getting the iP3G in every respect.
A petition has been started to ask for a prepay option, now whilst I don’t generally support these online petitions, if nothing more than acting as a barometer, signing the petition will at least generate an indication of how many people are interested in the issue. So, the more that sign it the better.
But it has to be said – as a time zone leader, New Zealand was again leading the world into the iPhone 3G. Now Vodafone NZ is just going to be leaving a bitter taste in Apple’s mouth.
One aspect that interested me was that before the launch of the pricing this morning, Vodafone got it into the media that the iPhone was starting at $199. Once the plans were announced, it became patently obvious that no matter what the conditions, to purchase an iPhone and use it on a mobile network in New Zealand is going to cost a lost more than $199. I figure this is misleading advertising, so I have actually raised a complaint to the Commerce Commission. This link to ComCom’s website covers their mandate on False or Misleading representations on Price. Look at the section on ‘Hidden or Additional costs’ and see the example of a mobile phone company.
A business advertised mobile phones for sale at a low price. The price was only available if the purchaser was a new connection to a particular cellular network. There were additional charges for joining and disconnecting from that network that were not identified. The business was convicted and fined.
Very interesting. Vodafone obtained a lot of media coverage this morning before the release of their pricing plans that indicated that the phone would be accessible for $199. I believe that Vodafone might be misleading the price of an iPhone, and so I raised the following complaint to the Commerce Commission via this form.
I am concerned about the misleading Vodafone pricing of the Apple iPhone that is being provided in the media today.
Prior to the announcement of the plans this morning at 10am, Vodafone promoted via the media that the phone would be available ‘starting at $199′ before full details of the service plans were released. Then, when they were released it become apparent that the $199 pricing was in fact for the most expensive plan, and that when all costs and the minimum term was included, the cost of the phone and plan was in fact $6199 over 24 months. Indeed, the cheapest price that someone can in fact purchase the Apple iPhone is in fact $979 inc GST to purchase it outright with no plan (and this will be at reduced functionality unless additional services are purchased from Vodafone). The cheapest with-service plan for the iPhone is $2469 inc GST over 24 months.
I am concerned about the ‘free’ media coverage and attention that Vodafone obtained by preannouncing the $199 price without releasing full details of the service commitments at the same time, and would like to kindly ask that the Commission investigates Vodafone’s pricing further and that they more accurately represent the cost of the iPhone to the New Zealand market.
I’ll stop here, but I intend to add to this post in the coming hours with some further research.
Update. After a little digging and reading on Vodafone’s site, it appears that the cheapest plan option to obtain an iPhone is a 24 month cost of $2,152.60. This is the YouChoose20 base plan + broadband starter – these cost $48.90 a month including GST and an 8GB iPhone costs $979 inc GST.This provides a handful of minutes, no free texts, and 200MB a month.
Compare this to the cheapest iPhone plan – the iPhone 8GB 250 that costs a total of $2,469 in GST over 24 months and provides 120 minutes, 600 text and 250MB a month.
Vodafone are waaaaayyyy off the mark suggesting that the iPhone is available for $199 – and I just reconfirmed my thoughts that Vodafone are being extremely misleading by suggesting that the phone ‘starts’ at $199.
I should note that whilst the iPhone plans are somewhat balanced in terms of the minutes/text/data – if you find that you tend towards data more than voice for example, you may find benefits in customising a plan by taking a lower YouChoose option to cut the number of minutes, adding $12.95 per month for 600 texts, and utilising a Broadband plan AND if you need to paying the extra $10/month to double you monthly bandwidth. But this will likely only suit users that tend heavily towards data or voice.
Update. Campbell Live had a fair go at Mark Rushworth, the Vodafone New Zealand Chief Marketing Officer. Download it from this comment on the Mothership.
Clearly following on from the antipodes, the UK Government is now holding a mashup competition as well. But it appears that they haven’t quite gone as far as we have in New Zealand – at least not in terms of trying to remove as many restrictions on the use of Government data.
Having a look at the data page, where the Government has published data, it is interesting to note that citizens are required to enter click-use licensing agreements, and commit to using API’s to access government data. You can see some of the frustration on the page listing the data downloads.
Why are they such a problem? Well, the data can only be used for non-commercial purposes – that is going to hinder development somewhat, with no potential return at the end of the work. The licensing agreements appear to allow the government agency to pull the plug at any point if they don’t like what you are doing – I wonder what would happen if a mashup showed an inconvenient truth for a government, would that be reason to get a government agency to pull the data plug? Another joy of accessing data through API’s is that they are limiting queries on their servers to a few thousand queries per day (in the case of the Ornance Survey).
Which is why Government data really should be properly freed. It needs to be released to obtain a life of its own under a suitable Creative Commons license. Let citizens download the data, mash it up on their systems, and deal with all the issues. Governments must not become the gatekeepers of this information through API’s and license agreements.