Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The great Gov 2.0 'sporting' contest between Australia and Britain

Not this urn...
It's December, and Brits and Aussies alike have turned their thoughts to Christmas, family, parties, holidays and travel.

There's also a very special content underway down-under between Britain and Australia, consuming the thoughts of millions.

It all revolves around a very particular type of urn...

An urn containing the ashes of Australian cricket?

No, the urn that we all visit every day, our toilet.

That's right - it's time for the Great Gov 2.0 Toilet Map face-off!

Let me introduce the two contenders:

The National Public Toilet Map (https://toiletmap.gov.au)

Operated by the Department of Social Services as part of the National Continence Program, the National Public Toilet Map features information 16,000 public and private toilets across Australia and is available as a website and as both iOS and Android apps.

Originally developed in 2001, the Map is a Gov 2.0 style service which pre-dates Gov 2.0.  It has been progressively redeveloped and improved over the last twelve years to keep it current, usable and accessible.

The National Public Toilet Map includes information on toilet location, accessibility, baby change facilities, sharps disposal, sanitary disposal and much more, allowing users to identify the toilets that are appropriate to their needs.

Besides being able to search for toilets by location and needed features, the trip planner allows people to map their route and find appropriately located toilets along the route. You can even favourite or print details for specific toilets and download GPS data to your car's GPS system.

This might sound a little naff to some, however if you're a parent with young kids, a tourist, or one of the estimated 3.8 million Australians suffering from incontinence, a toilet map that's available on the road is vital for travel plans.

The service is hosted on Telstra's cloud and built on Google Maps - meaning it's unlikely to go offline in the case of high demand (such as after Christmas lunch).

As a bonus, data for the map is available in data.gov.au for people to mashup and reuse, and apps have been independently developed for Android and Windows mobile devices.

The Great British Public Toilet Map (http://greatbritishpublictoiletmap.rca.ac.uk/)

The Great British Public Toilet Map isn't a government-run service, however was developed in 2012 using open data released by councils as part of the Tackling Ageing Continence through Theory Tools and Technology TACT3 research project.

The Map is actually not even of all of Britain - being limited to London and a few other cities, where councils and other government authorities release data on toilets.

The Great British Public Toilet Map only features a basic search feature and zoom, with none of the trip, sharing or favouriting features in Australia's service. Information on individual toilets is limited - with some toilets having opening times, details on accessibility and baby change facilities, but most being limited to only the location.

There is some open data on toilets available from the UK's data.gov.uk - but only for one London council. This means that developers in the UK don't really have much ability to create sites or apps that help people locate toilets when they need them.

Given it is estimated that there's up to 6 million people in the UK suffering some form of urinary incontinence, plus millions of tourists and business travellers visiting the UK each year, it's disappointing to see the lack of a true national British Public Toilet Map, whether provided publicly or privately using open data.

The winner:
It's pretty clear the British are not performing to expectations, and Australia's commitment and experience is paying off, allowing them to dominate the field with their coverage, flexibility and scope, and knock the ball for six with features.

It's also for providing relevant and timely information on public toilets, helping citizens and tourists alike.

Australia has a much stronger National Toilet Map - with national coverage, excellent features and the open data required for developers to incorporate a national map of toilets into their own online services.

There's only one consolation for the British. 

While their 'Balmy Army' is flocking to Australia to watch the cricket (and take in the Australian sun and surf), at least they'll have no problems finding a toilet after a long hot day at the game.

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