Welcome to the first of a series of guest blog posts written by Data.gov.uk community members who have developed applications using data available on Data.gov.uk. This week, Matt Kopjack from findthebest.com describes the development of the UK Car Fuel Economy and Emissions application.
Why Private Industry is Key to Open Government Data
To veterans of 20th century politics, Government transparency may sound like an oxymoron or at best a campaign-year buzzword. Over the past few years, however, administrations in a number of countries, the UK and US included, have demonstrated serious commitment to using new technology to finally bring Government data out of the shadows. Highlights of these efforts include data.gov.uk and data.gov. Both of these sites have essentially the same mission: to compile as much Government data as possible in a format that can easily be read and used by other websites and programs. So where do private companies fit into that picture? Essentially the relationship between Government data sites and private websites is a symbiotic one.
All parties benefit: The Government achieves its goal of opening up data to the public, the public gets unprecedented access to Government data, and innovative companies can create valuable content and engage users.
At FindTheBest.com, data.gov.uk is the perfect source of data for our comparison applications. Frustrated by the paucity of unbiased consumer information on the internet, we set out to make a site that would allow consumers to make side by side comparisons of products and services and ultimately make more informed decisions. Our unique “Comparison Apps” were designed with the belief that what you find the “best” is subjective but can be based on objective information. Open Government data has been crucial to our creation of over 400 Comparison Apps, providing the data for applications such as “UK Car Fuel Economy and Emissions”.
Our UK Car Fuel Economy and Emission App was created to help potential car buyers compare the facts without marketing schemes or advertising hype and make fuel economy based comparisons of the vehicles relevant to them. A teenager, for instance, might be interested in fuel economy but feel that he requires a very fast car and so would like to compare the economies of cars with over 7,000 cc’s of displacement. Consumers clearly had a use for such a service, and we felt that our Comparison App format was perfect for it; the missing piece was the data. While many services offer fuel economy information, none can guarantee the objectivity that the Government does. The majority of vehicle information sources either are sponsored by specific manufacturers or charge for their information.
To build the App, our product developers began with the raw data on UK car fuel economy and emissions available for download on data.gov.uk, and custom built the framework for an App on our site based on the specific information available in the download. With the framework built, all that was required was to upload the data and a complete application with over 5,000 comparable listings was ready for display. Users can now access the App and find valuable information on cars in the UK as well as compare specific cars side-by-side, view graph comparison charts, and even embed the results on their own webpage or blog. To get a sense of the market as a whole, for example, a user might choose to compare a Smart fortwo coupe, a Mercedes A-Class 5 door, and a Corvette Z06 2 door coupe. Our application would allow them to compare UK Government statistics on each in a helpful side-by-side format.
As a result, the UK Government meets its goal of opening up information to citizens and FindTheBest.com meets its goal of offering an interesting and valuable Comparison App. In the process consumers get the best of both worlds: comprehensive and objective data in an innovative and user-friendly format. In many ways, the dynamic between data.gov.uk and companies such as FindTheBest.com typifies an ideal mutual relationship. Both, however, are only beginning to realize their potential. Data.gov.uk and Data.gov have only been in existence for a few years each, and as they grow and develop their relationships with the private sector will certainly evolve as well.
FindTheBest.com is an objective, socially curated comparison engine. Our goal is to become the trusted place where consumers can find reliable information in order to make faster and more informed decisions. If you’re interested in using us for your data presentation, please contact Matt Kopjak at firstname.lastname@example.org.