Universal access goes web 2

A recent development here in London has been the release (in a very simple, prototype, form) of a datastore, full of facts about London that are in the public domain.  Not all of it is new – for instance the population statistics have been available through the office of national statistics for a while, and London boroughs also put demographic data on their website – but it’s still useful to have all of this easily accessible and in a consistent format.

I use the term ‘universal access’ to refer to the effect that resources that were once only available to specialists are now available to anybody with a web browser, and the datastore certainly fits that effect.  However the examples that I’ve used in the past to illustrate universal access tend to focus on delivering information (as opposed to raw data) in an easily digestible form.  For instance http://www.upmystreet.com/ – still my favourite example of the effect – allows you to type in a postcode and see the neighbourhood profile which would at one time only have been available to marketing professionals.  Personal finance sites such as the Motley Fool give you the raw material for invesment decisions that might once have only been available through financial advisers.  NHS direct gives you access to health advice without visiting a doctor.

But the London datastore is different – and in a way which is relevant to Web 2.  It just gives you statistics – loads of them – and it’s the reader’s responsibility to work out what to do with them.  The idea being that other people will develop applications which can build on this data and analyse it – which of course is consistent with the Web 2 concept of mashups and also explains why the prototype datastore page looks rather like something aimed at a technical audience, and not at everyday users.


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