An event in Gravesend today showed me how a mix of open data from councils, the skills of software developers and smartphone apps could lead to a social app store that residents could use to benefit themselves and their community.
The Developing Solutions camp, organised by Kent Connects and hosted by Gravesham Council, has brought together technology designers and other working on a range of ideas for using tech for neighbourhood benefit. You can see the ideas here, originally pitched on the Dotgovlabs innovation hub.
The ideas include community vehicle booking, mapping council land and empty shops, and an exploration learning game. The task of those present is to develop a prototype that could win them a prize of £1000 at the end of the day.
In recent years there have been quite a few of this type of event around the country, and it sounds as if we may be getting to the point where there are enough viable solutions around to make it worth bringing them together. This might be the basis for a social app store on the lines that I, John Popham and others have been promoting.
The app store idea started here, and chimes with the idea that the future of online sharing is mobile, applified and personal.
Today Darren Everden, Gravesham IT service manager, and Antony Parker, Kent Connects business implementation manager, explained how the release of data held by council can create value and lead to community benefits.
Developers are able to package the data into smartphone apps that solve problems and provide services to citizens. The apps cost only a few pounds – but if enough are sold, that creates a viable market and leads to community benefits without major public spending.
At the moment the apps are being developed in different places. While the data may be specific to different localities, the underlying technology to make it accessible to people could be common. So there could be an app store with common solutions tailored to local needs.
As I understand, the problem is that data is currently held in different formats, and it needs some policy directive from government to push public agencies to collaborate. If that were done, there could be some major benefits.
Kent Connects Partners have a track record of innovative collaboration between citizens and councils, and last year ran a Transformed by You event that I reported here. Kent Connects is providing the partnership for local collaborations, so I hope the Cabinet Office might see this as an inspiration for a route to achieve big benefits from minimal spending.
I’ve now uploaded other videos, including an interview with Roger Gough, Kent Council Council Cabinet member responsible for technology, and interviews with the winners.
If you have problems viewing them here, the individual videos are all available in this playlist.
I have also posted two interviews with Tom Phillips, who I met up with at the event
- Sharing outside means first sharing inside - Tom suggests Yammer as a good way to start conversations within organisations
- How sociable events can help build networks and connects ideas - Tom reflects on different network models and the role of events