While on paper I don’t live in a rocking part of the world, some would say Northern Ireland, Limavady is a small town with 12,000+ people living and working there (the Limavady Government District is about 32,000).  Nestled between Londonderry and Coleraine it acts as a strange hub of travel.

For those who know me I’m involved in projects in Derry, Belfast and my association with Digital Circle but there was always that distance thing that causes problems.  Better for these things to start at home and then work your way outwards.

Grand visions are good, small mobile intelligent units are better, more agile and easier to change if required. There’s an awful lot of talk about a digital city, oodles of data that can be used to give citizens and visitors the information they need.

Focusing on the data and technology is wrong

The main aim here is making people’s everyday life better with easier access to information.  There’s a bunch of key questions to ask first: i) what information do people actually want? ii) How will that information be presented (web, phone, augmented reality)?

Technology is a mean to an end, not an end in itself (so the saying goes) and as technologists we need to recognise that. It’s people first, always.

Before any question about how to do things happens we need to document what the aims are.

Data for consumption.

I see two sides to the data: there’s data for consumption (plan a day out, get the news, what’s the weather like) and then there’s data to learn from (Govt Stats, population numbers, healthcare provision, survey feedback etc)

The data resides in various places, collaboration starts with conversation and not needless scraping of websites.  Showing your intentions for the greater good usually gets results (I say usually, there are come challenges).

Partnerships are important, there’s a good wealth of existing data that is useful.  The obvious two are events with WhatsOnNI (http://www.whatsonni.com) and business/restaurant reviews/listings with Lookaly (http://www.lookaly.com).   

There’s Facebook which is where people do hang out and talk, this is just as important as scraping around the place for data.  Twitter’s fine for realtime update except there’s not a lot happening in Limavady to tweet about, even then there’s no 3G signal so tweeting can be a pain unless you do it via SMS.

Data for learning.

Local government learns from data, I would wager it’s via spreadsheet and reporting functions.  A good starting place for this data is the Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service.

The local council seriously need to see which parts of the Limavady BC website are being viewed. Learning from data pushes the need for which parts of the site need reviewing, revitalising and which need serious work.

(On a personal pain point, go to the Limavady website and find out what time the tip closes today, use a stopwatch and leave a comment, I’m interested to see how long it takes you).

Whats next?

There’s a lot of ground covered, not real plotting and planning yet but we’re starting to see a picture of what’s possible.  Part 2 will introduce how we can make form of it all….