Innovation in Government: SchoolClosures.org.uk

I was at the UKGovWebBarcamp last weekend, and among the talks I attended was one by the Directgov Innovate team. This team has been recently formed, and is a really good development. In their own words:

Directgov have created the innovate.direct.gov.uk developer network to inform the greater developer community about available resources, to provide a platform to connect with one another, and to showcase new ideas with the aim of supporting and encouraging innovation.

Over time we will provide content feeds and API’s allowing people to develop new and interesting ideas and applications for use by the greater community.

Among my questions was: what will this team actually do? I was very glad to hear that they plan to develop new sites, make APIs, make data available to people and create a community of developers who are interested in this field. Great. This is just what’s needed. What’s even better is that they’ve already delivered on that promise.

Yesterday, Tom Watson tweeted that we should have a site where people can check to see if their school is closed. Brian Hoadley and Paul Clarke at Directgov took up the challenge, and just a couple of days later, launched a new site: SchoolClosures.org.uk.

It’s pretty rough around the edges: there doesn’t seem to be much RSS support, and there’s no access to the underlying data, and — well — it doesn’t tell you whether your school is closed… but it is still useful, and it’s very impressive that it appeared so quickly, and with such little prompting.

Kudos to all involved — this is a fantastic and very encouraging start.

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