While I’ve watched the election drama unfold over the last few days I’ve been busy trying to finish off the first stage of my digital scrutiny project – which is looking into how it might be possible to use the web to help the public scrutinise local government.
My idea has turned into a blog – Where Can We Swim – that I’m busy trying to develop as a sort of laboratory for the scrutiny of swimming pool provision. At the heart of my idea is a basic belief that we – the public – in all our great unwashed glory, might be able to help to run public facilities – not just as volunteers, but because we’re clever and can actually come up with new ways of doing things.
When I started the project I hoped to develop a kind of tool kit for scrutiny. I even imagined I’d be scraping data in order to provide really good quality information. But my assumptions were totally off. By posting about my swimming pools idea on Podnosh I’ve learned of the work that Plings has done to find out all the local authorities providing free swimming to under 16s.
This has made me think about how this provision will continue in the future. I’ve also realised the mines of local information that exist from websites locally, like the Moseley Road Bath’s excellent updates on swimming pool news in Birmingham and are helping to keep an eye on how the city council runs its pools.
Swimming around the web
And, when I first encountered the daftness of the Active Places data set run by Sport England (the store for all the country’s public sporting facilities), I imagined I’d spend my time trying to unlock the data, but it turns out that the folk at Rewired State have already had a crack at it.
What all this is beginning to prove is that my idea of a tool kit makes no sense whatsoever. Instead it’s pretty simple really: the web’s the tool. The real trick – something I’m only beginning to understand – is learning to use it to make connections between you and other people who have the same idea. And, if you do that, then suddenly all sorts of clever things begin to happen.