There’s a lot of talk at the moment about Smart Cities, Intelligent Towns and Inventive Villages (I made the last 2 up, but if there are any intelligent towns or inventive villages that want to use those terms, perhaps on a poster or website, feel free.) There are many things that make up a Smart City, but they all boil down to collecting data & using that data to make informed decisions about where to spend a limited budget. In it’s simplest form, that’s what it boils down to, and there are some cities in the UK having a good stab at being a smart city, Bristol, Manchester & Edinburgh.
There’s an important ingredient that I think a lot of cities are missing in their attempts to become smarter, and that’s openness.
"Some people want to fine tune a city like you do a race car but they are leaving citizens out of the process," said Anthony Townsend, director of the Institute of the Future and author of Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia.
Sheffield is dipping it’s toe in the water with it’s Open Data Sheffield group which has had several fruitful meetings with the Council, and the council has provided more data to the group to help them grow & make a better contribution. I really hope the group continues to flourish because I don’t think councils provide enough data to citizens, not even close.
To be a truly smart city you have to be an open city, you can’t have 1 small group of people deciding what data other people need to feel more involved. I’d release everything from traffic flow data to footfall data in libraries, leisure centers & community centers. Data on council tax arrears to where council tax is spent and how much it cost to replace those lamp posts. Some of this info might already be available, there’s certainly data.gov.uk but it only has a little over 10,000 sets of data and that’s from across the whole of local & national government, there are 21 data sets for Sheffield, and most of those are NHS related 
Being open doesn’t just mean publishing data and sitting back brushing your hands … my work here is done. No, you need to be open to suggestions from citizens near and far, and when supported by good data you need to be willing to act on that data. If a local cycle group presents you with information on accidents in a particular area of the city you should be prepared to look at that area and address the reasons for the higher incidence of accidents and (again using data) come up with a proposal to remedy the situation. If a local resident uses the data you’ve published to show that their area gets an unusally small amount of money spent on it’s local schools then you need to be ready with data to make a change or correct them.
An open city is a smart city.
As a kind of follow up to my Digital Region post the other day, I was trying to track my recorded delivery letter through the post office website, and was met by this on the front page of the Post Office website
Why are the Post Office advertising mortgages on the front of their website?
Oh well, on to find out where my package got to:
hmm, so I posted a first class recorded delivery letter a week ago, and it’s “being progresses through our network”, but at least I can get a Post Office mortgage. Maybe my payments each month would be progressed through my own delivery network too.
In vim you can use
to move backward & forward through the changes in the current buffer.
I don’t usually send things round asking others to sign them, but I think this is important enough to do just that!
A little back ground.
Richard O’Dwyer is a student at one of the unis in Sheffield, like many others he ran a website in his spare time. Richard’s site let people search for links to TV shows on the internet. The US wants to extradite him to stand trial where he faces up to 10 years in jail.
What he did is not a crime in the UK, he has not been arrested & has not been charged with any crime in this country, and none of the equipment used for his site was in the US. For example, click on the link below, it will show you links to places where you can download CSI New York, exactly the same as Richard’s site did, the difference being this is Google.
The treaty which is being used to extradite him was put in place to make the extradition of terrorists easier, it was set up by the Extradition Act 2003, you can read more about it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extradition_Act_2003
Have a look at the kinds of people who are being extradited, none of them are terrorists, except Abu Hamza and HIS extradition has been blocked all the way through.
Why do I think this is important enough to spend my whole lunch hour researching & sending this email? Because this amounts to censorship, and we cannot allow something as valuable as the internet to be censored on the mere accusation of copyright infringement. Linking to other content is what the whole internet is based on and if you let someone tell you you can’t link to something because it’s copyright, then the whole internet breaks.
All those photos & jokes you send out Mum? Someone owns the copyright on those, and you do not have the original creators permission to use them, in that sense what you are doing is worse than what Richard has done, you are distributing copyright material which is a civil offence, linking to them on the internet is not.
Please take the time to sign it, and once you have, you have my permission to distribute this email ;-) in fact I actively encourage it!
Not © Stuart Grimshaw 1012
At last years PHPNW, @LornaJane did a presentation that introduced most of the audience to Link Tuesday, where basically everyone in the department sends round a bunch of interesting links every Tuesday. It’s even spawned it’s own website http://linktuesday.com
Here’s my email I sent today:
First off a handy glossary for CDR related terminology that I found useful over the weekend:
A quick guide for creating & using GPG keys to sign & encrypt email. Who else has a key that they use?
and finally, something to make slide shows a lot more interesting: