Everyone wants to make their mobile site/app more relevant and useful. This helps to build traffic, increase time on site, improve search engine rankings, convert site visitors into actual sales, attract more advertisers et cetera. Providing excellent, accurate and oft-updated content that is relevant for your mobile customer is a major part of the mix.
Government initiatives in many countries to provide public access to information have provided an abundance of data sources that can transform mobile sites/apps, including travel, traffic, weather, locations of public buildings and crime statistics. Mostly this data is free to use and increasingly it is available in formats – e.g. RSS data feeds, widgets and APIs (application-programming interface) – that make it easier for developers to incorporate the service into their mobile site or app.
As mobiThinking was surfing the various government data sites – all listed below – as part of the research for The Mobile City Project, it was striking just how much untapped potential there is to make really useful mobile sites/apps, whatever business you are in.
Some government data sites give examples of mobile sites/apps that have been created using this publicly available information, but these really are the tip of the iceberg. See these examples from the US, Singapore, Norway and UK.
Data providers are actively encouraging third parties to develop sites/apps using these resources. After all it is a great way of delivering information to the people, without the need to do the publicity work or answer queries themselves. The mobile showcases are part of this process, as is the ideas section on the UK site where people can suggest ideas for useful apps to which developers can help themselves. And it is not uncommon to see competitions to encourage developers.
This isn’t a big secret, but most businesses/agencies/developers remain unaware of this gold mine of free information, or have failed to appreciate the opportunity this offers for developing relevant mobile services. With resources like these, there really isn’t any excuse for lowest-common-denominator mobile sites or disposable novelty mobile apps.
International data resources: United Nations, World Bank, OECD.
National data resources: Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, New Zealand, Moldova, Norway, Singapore, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States.
US city data sites: Baltimore, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, New York City (beta).
French city resources: Paris, Montpellier, Rennes.
Other city resources: Vienna.
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