Dodgy Tummy Trend Spotter

FROM: Gordon

What NEED does this meet?
The number of notified cases of food poisoning in the UK in 2002 was 81,815. Everyone I have spoken to has had at least one dodgy tummy experience in the last year and these cases went unreported. This was because the sufferer didn't consider it serious enough to do anything about, and couldn't say for sure what really had caused it. However, if there was an easy way of entering an 'eating diary' of the day or so prior to being ill (and enough people used it) then it should be possible to correlate this data in such a way as to identify the likely source of the food poisoning. For example, a common denominator in several cases could be an egg sandwich from the same establishment, or common consumption of an in-flight meal. In these cases information can be passed onto the relevant authorities for further investigation. However, many cases will be caused by home preparation of food, and in these case advice can be given on storing, preparation and cooking.

What is the APPROACH?
The plan is to have a website that makes it easy to enter the relevant food and provenance data (what was eaten and where it was bought) and collate the data in such a way to allow a likely source of the food poisoning/illness to be identified. The important points in this process are:

1. Entry of data must be quick, friendly and easy in order to encourage re-use of the system (as good results rely on a large sample size).

2. Data must be stored in a way to make comparison and crosschecking between different users' information possible.

3. Where possible there should be some immediate feedback of the likely source to encourage usage of the site.

4. Contributors would be kept informed of developments of their incident by email.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
1. Individual contributors are told the most likely source of stomach upsets, along with practical advice on preventing it happening again wherever possible. 2. Promotes safer and more hygienic food preparation and cooking in the home. 3. Commercial sources of food poisoning will be identified faster, preventing further, and potentially more serious, cases from occurring.


What is the COMPETITION?
The Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) maintains a database of food-poisoning cases - but this only includes cases that were reported to GPs, and where the GP carried out further tests and submitted a report to the PHLS. Most cases are not reported. This proposed system will contain a much larger number of more minor stomach upsets, making trend spotting and data analysis possible.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
The main expenses of the system will be: 1. Creating/hosting the website. 2. Specialist health knowledge will be needed to formulate rules and write advice. 3. Up-to-date database of UK businesses selling/serving food. e.g. live information from on-line yellow pages. This will be required to let contributors pick visited eating establishments from a list to ensure accuracy.

November 17, 2003 in Health, Increasing Awareness, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

inequalities.net or downmystreet.co.uk

FROM: John Hudson (with Paul Dornan & Dave Hudson)

What NEED does this meet?
Inequality is rising but poverty is unevenly spread across the country. Standards of living vary dramatically from place-to-place. Environmental degradation blights some communities while others enjoy the benefits of pollution free surroundings. Access to new technologies is restricted in many areas of the country while others benefit from ubiquitous high-speed wired and wireless connections. Life expectancy for a male varies from 79.3 years if he is born in North Dorset to just 68.7 years if he is born in Glasgow City.

In short, geography matters: inequality has a strong spatial dimension. However, while government policies are the solution to these problems they also contribute to them: government spending is not distributed equally; local authorities, devolved assemblies and QUANGOs attach differing priorities to tackling inequalities; the ‘post code lottery’ increasingly determines access to, or the quality of, many key government services. Where citizens once relied on a national welfare state to tackle social inequalities and a strong regional policy to redistribute income between areas of the UK, the decentralised, slimmed down, ‘hollowed out’ state of the 21st century no longer provides such guarantees.

Inequalities.net (or downmystreet.co.uk) lays bare the statistical facts of this polarisation of society. Using GIS (geographic information system) technology, it maps social science data and official statistics to postcodes and local authority boundaries. It allows those affected by inequities, campaigning against them, researching them, reporting them or reacting to them to quickly and simply access information about the levels of poverty and social exclusion in specific areas and compare them with other areas or to the national average or to rank them nationally. Similarly, it will enable people to geographically interrogate data about government spending, public service standards or the availability of public services or key private utilities. It will do for data about social exclusion and government services what upmystreet.co.uk does for data about property prices and the availability of private services, but it will serve the cause of the marginalised rather than the middle class, the anti-poverty campaigner rather than the prospective home buyer. It will hold decision makers to account and enable activists to bolster their arguments for social change by placing the latest information and research at their fingertips.

What is the APPROACH?
In many ways the approach is indistinctive: it follows the form of upmystreet.co.uk in mapping readily available statistical information to postcode data. However, its distinctive element comes in its content: the provision of information about the failures of government policy and the negative impacts of capitalism. It provides quick and easy access to information that commercial organisations are unlikely to make a profit from and that government often wants to keep quiet about. Given this, the only viable business model is one based on that of a social enterprise. Indeed, its strength will be to draw on contributions from those already active in providing such information but to use the internet to pool their expertise and knowledge. Once the technology underpinning the site is in place we will establish a network of researchers and campaigners and look for their assistance in maintaining the resource. We believe many will be happy to help us: inequalities.net will serve their ends as campaigners and researchers and will widen access to, and the impact of, data they are already collecting as part of their work.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
What we are proposing is a sort of post-modern Fabianism. Like the early Fabians, our aim is to provide wider access to objective, factual information about poverty and social exclusion and, as such, our project is politically neutral. However - again like the early Fabians – we believe that increased access to this information will aid the cause of those seeking progressive social reform. The difference comes in that their approach to distributing information (meetings, pamphlets) carried high marginal costs whereas ours carries extremely low marginal costs. Moreover, we can offer what is in effect an automated, tailored research experience for each visitor: they will select the indicators and geographic areas they are interested in.

There will be those who will point to the ‘dangers’ of our project, arguing it will exacerbate the polarisation of society by allowing people to search for ‘no go’ areas in order to discount them as communities to live, work or invest in. However, our position is that while inequality is rising, a social and political complacency has crept into our civic culture that needs to be challenged. Inequalities.net will bring information about those inequalities to a wider audience, bolster the activities of campaigners, help disadvantaged communities make the case for increased public investment, encourage journalists to include data about social inequalities in their writing and help teachers to illustrate and discuss social issues in citizenship classes. Our view is that it is not greater access to information that poses the danger to society: it is lack of debate.

What is the COMPETITION?
The obvious competitor is upmystreet.com. However, we would see our service as complementary; they use similar technologies but for differing ends. While the two will overlap in places (upmystreet provides useful information about school performance and crime rates for example) their site is primarily aimed at those with an economic interest, ours those with a social or political interest. The National Statistics website is also a ‘rival’, but again differences will persist. Our site will have more of a campaigning edge to it, lacking the need for the apolitical approach that an official government site demands.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
We already have some of the key skills needed to take this forward and are confident we could use our connections to establish a network to support the site. The initial start up costs could be quite high though and we would need assistance from a wide range people - statisticians and GIS experts in particular – to help us get the project off the ground. It would also be very useful to draw on the expertise of commercial organisations such as upmystreet or those who have worked for them in the past.

November 4, 2003 in Increasing Awareness, Use of Statistics | Permalink | Comments (2)

A forum for exchange of historical geopolitical information.

FROM: Paul Jensen

What NEED does this meet?
It is currently difficult to find information which aids comprehension of how things are changing within different countries - like income levels, health care, education, or consumption or production of food, arms, etc. Although a good deal of information is available it is usually not in a form that invites study and comparison.


For example, a question like "how is the distribution of income changing in Asian countries compared to European countries?" requires hunting up the information from a variety of sources, then trying to discern the trends, and then creating additional information to convey the analysis.


I'd like to see a forum created for sharing historical geopolitical information in a form that allows everyone to use the data and create their own data files to share in a manner similar to the way a digital music file can be created and shared now.

What is the APPROACH?
Historical information for a given quantity can be represented by a standard spreadsheet with a few common headings - like the attributes available for music files - that allow tools to visualize the information and compute new spreadsheets. For a geopolitical time series, a matrix of the statistic over time and across countries is appropriate.


Tools can then be written to combine several of these into other forms - using the population of each country and the total income for each country to compute per capita income, for example.


There also needs to be a variety of ways to view the information. Seeing the per capita income dynamically change on a animated map, for example, allows overall trends to be quickly grasped.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Having easy ways of exchanging information that is essential to making informed decisions would likely spur more interest and involvement in decisions that impact all of us.

What is the COMPETITION?
There are lots of the pieces around, and lots of data. But the exchange forms that make wide use possible are not currently available. I know of no Napster-like forum for this type of information.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
I have a prototype tool now in place at called Time and Place along with a small collection of files.


What is primarily needed are some great ideas of how to create a forum for this information and how to categorize it for ease of sharing (Genre, Title, Author, etc.). Formalizing the exchange standard is the only task that has wide impact on the other things that need to be done.


Innovative tools are also needed, such as an animated map display. Once a few basic tools are available, these tools can be created, tried, discarded, and new ideas explored. The nice part about this type of forum is that with an exchange standard in place, the work can be done independently with little need to coordinate.

November 1, 2003 in Increasing Awareness, International, Use of Statistics | Permalink | Comments (7)

Meet your neighbours

FROM: Gav Slater

What NEED does this meet?
One of the problems of living in a modern city is that there isn't really much of a community spirit anymore. You could live in the same street for year upon year, and never get to know the person in the house next door, or the flat over the landing.

What is the APPROACH?
The initial idea would be to do a trial on up to a hundred indiviual streets in a city (or several cities), build up a client base, then roll out the service bit by bit, possibly by the use of mail shots, and of course word of mouth, which should let the site snowball.

The basic premise should appeal to human curiosity, as people naturally want to know about their neighbours, but in most circumstances may be afraid to ask them directly

What are the BENEFITS to people?
It's all about building communites again, getting people in the same street talking to each other, and finding common interests. Living in a friendly, vibrant community is happier and more fulfilling than living in isolation.

What is the COMPETITION?
Friends Reunited has recently added a "my street" feature, but that is more to do with finding old friends, rather than making new ones. And of course, there are countless "community" sites on the web, but these are all geared towards bringing people together from all corners of the globe, not two ends of a short street.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Easy enough to roll out, would need a maximum of two servers, one for address/postcode data, and one for user data. The fron end would need probably a maximum of 10 different (dynamic) pages, and the data retrieval back-end would be fairly simple.

The biggest cost would be for bandwidth, if the site took off, as modern database servers can easily deal with 1000 users or 1,000,000 users, but once the data gets sent to the outside world, that's when things start to get expensive.

November 1, 2003 in Health, Increasing Awareness | Permalink | Comments (5)

HazNet

FROM: Alex Lawrie

What NEED does this meet?
Hopefully saving lives. HazNet would benfit everyone on the planet, one life saved is worth a million man hours. There are many hazards in life that people can, and have, stumbled into unprepaired which has lead to a loss of life... gas leaks, motorway pileups, riots, chemical hazards, industral explosions, radition hazards, major fires, police incidents, natural disasters, forest fires and ultimately, god forbid, biological/chemical warfare.

What is the APPROACH?
the project is 100% open source with *no* commercial intrest. Users can download a client application, which will alert them to any potentionally life theating indedents in thier area, the user configures the client to thier location, which is down to state/county level, and the client will only alert them to indedents that are relevent to thier area.

the alerts are generated by 'information providers'. Information providers are
organizations that have registered with HazNet and, after heavy vetting, can generate alerts which are distributed to clients in the area that the alert affects. The incentive for information providers is that the alerts will contain referances to them. I would invisage the Information providers to be the likes of Utility Companies, Motoring Organizations, Goverment Agencies, News Agencies.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Hopefully it would save lifes, if people have prewarning of a potentially life threating situation, they would avoid it.

What is the COMPETITION?
there is no such multi agency service.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
The client and Information Providers techonolgies are allready built but there is still some development work required to make the system multi platform, and the information providers registery still needs to be designed. What the programme requires is exposure.

November 1, 2003 in Health, Increasing Awareness | Permalink | Comments (0)

Free Local Knowlege

FROM: Martyn OConnor

What NEED does this meet?
How do you know whether the hotel you book or the place you want to visit is really the best for you? How do you know which is the quickest route from one place to another in an unusual town?

What is the APPROACH?
Have local people who are willing to share their knowledge sign up on a postcode basis and anyone can put a query to the area they are interested in so that real people can then reply offering real, up to date human assistance and experience.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
There's no going somewhere and thinking "Next time I'd avoid this..."

What is the COMPETITION?
Not that I know of

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Not particulary. I could probably build something myself in php and mysql with some time to think about it.

October 31, 2003 in Connecting People, Geographic, Increasing Awareness, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (3)

OpenToAll

FROM: Scott

What NEED does this meet?
Aiming to help local residents findout about local development schemes in their local area, such as building projects and council initiatives.

What is the APPROACH?
I like the idea of the Map function, so this could be tied into such a system, where by a user could enter a location and find out about local government, development and initiatives. Users could post information on new projects, and spawn public discussion forums.

What I'm proposing could include local governemnt, and authority input, so that the public have a more direct access to the policies, beyond the scope of local government and authorities' sites.

Proposed building projects could be explained and opened to public debate, providing useful resource to local developers as much as local government.

Going further subjects could be linked to allow users to see how other comunities have dealt with their issues and how their authorities responded.

e.g. it took two years of presure to persuad my local authority to repair the aged and broken drainage system in my area and it still hasn't begun.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Making people feel more connected, and empowered encourages them to be more proactive towards politics. Uniting comuntities, strengthening their relationship with their government, and more importantly having a more accessible means of shaping their comunity.

By including everyone, nationaly a much broader perspective could be achieved, offering far more diverse debate.

Including local government immediatly allows them to gauge opinon more immediatly and offer far more immediate response.

To encourage authorities to cooperate without neccessarily being bound to any information or opinion would be vital as only in an unihibited enviroment can democracy really prosper.

Legal issues would potentially discourage input, and inhibit democracy.

That was kinda' idealistic wasn't it? Head in the clouds?!

What is the COMPETITION?
I haven't heard of any, so I wouldn't know of other schemes beyond discrete local activists.

I'm proposing a far more diverse and expansive approach that incorparates other concepts.

If it does exist already then it should be well known, otherwise its already failing.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
This is more of a foundation, a medium for others to build on, so I wouldn't expect it to be that expensive beyond initial development and implementation.

Or I could be completely wrong, who knows?

October 31, 2003 in Environmental, Increasing Awareness, Perhaps Government Remit?, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (1)

Viridian Indexer

FROM: mark simpkins

What NEED does this meet?
Based on a sentance by Bruce Sterling. In one of his Viridian Rants he mentioned the idea on an icon on his desktop, of a factory spewing pollutants into the air as he used his computer. To remind him that the power being used is polluting. We need a set of tools for people to be able to monitor and query the possible polltion levels for their usage of technology etc. By building a common set of tools to describe visualise the level of pollution from various sources people will be able to monitor thier usage and maybe reduce it. A couple of years ago I was at the Chelsea Flower Show with the BBC, running a network of 30 + computers, which were left running day and night. In amongst all those plants I wanted to know how much power / pollution was being generated.

What is the APPROACH?
First to produce a set of on line caluculators so that electrical device usage (TV, computer, kettle, oven) can be entered and a 'viridian index' be produced. This should also be extended to cars/motorbikes etc. and flag comparisons with public transport.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Saving the atmosphere. As the viridian design line goes, we can't upgrade the atmosphere.

What is the COMPETITION?
Yes, there are a number of online calcualtors out their to give you some idea of your impact on the environment, but they are disparent, not connected and often hard to find and ugly. Viridian design is also about design, sleek, looking good and also saving the world :)

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Inital work. collation of power usage data into databases (easily updateable by the community) and a set of tools to visualise the output.

Later stages would involve working with product manufacturers to build in monitoring, put the viridian index on packaging etc.

October 31, 2003 in Environmental, Increasing Awareness, Use of Statistics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Eyesore

FROM: Michael Scott

What NEED does this meet?
The need to improve the visual enviroment. Everyone knows an eyesore when they see one.

What is the APPROACH?
A website that enables people to post pictures of eyesores. A zoomable UK map provides a view of eyesore density. Areas are singled out as prime offenders. Notifications are sent to responsible parties. Comments, positive and negative ratings, additional photographs can be applied to eyesores by website visitors. Kudos can be accrued to eyesore removers. An eyesore can be anything from a permanently unemptied rubbish bin at your local bus stop to a hideous corporate skyline blocker. The sole restrictions would be that it has to be photographed and publicly visible.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
The website would give a central place to let off steam, and perhaps shame some offenders into removing, or at least rectifying, some of the more conspicuous eyesores. Also, as "eyesore" is a relative term, there would be a light hearted, "it takes all sorts" side to the website which would make browsing fun.

What is the COMPETITION?
No competition as far as I can see. Collaboration would likely come from the media, who would see it as a source of human interest stories, and architectural associatons, who would see it as a platform for promoting informed opinion.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Basically just another photo database website with some specific user interactive features. As a software developer, with 8 years website experience, I would be happy to put it together myself with a small team. Photo and comment vetting would be an issue, though perhaps a wiki-like approach would be sufficient in most cases.

October 31, 2003 in Environmental, Helping Your Community, Increasing Awareness, Use of Statistics | Permalink | Comments (4)

Service Tracker

FROM: Nuno Leitao

What NEED does this meet?
Customer Service in the UK and other countries is poor. This is due to a number of factors, but mainly because there is no way to "name and shame" companies (big or small) that offer poor customer service.

What is the APPROACH?
The plan is to develop a simple, yet functional website that allows people to "name and shame" companies or organisations (governmental or not) that offer sub-standard customer service. This would be controled by a "voting network" -- i.e., once an organisation is nominated, people can either vote organisations up or down, depending on their own experience with them.

The website would also include a "service tracker" with the top-10 poor service organisations divided by categories. Users would also be able to read other people's stories about particular organisations so they are better informed when buying a service or product.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Offer consumers a way to share their experiences and better select who they spend their time and money with.

What is the COMPETITION?
No competition I know of - this idea is genius, so go and implement it! :-)

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
It shouldn't be too difficult (probably between 6 to 12 man months of implementation time) -- a £5,000 budget should be sufficient to implement an initial version that allows the site to gain traction.

October 30, 2003 in Empowering Consumers, Increasing Awareness, Reputation Systems, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (5)