Developers should be wary of apps based on government information: Expert

A tech expert says app developers should be wary about development apps based on government-owned information after university students who offered to build a free bus service app for the ACT government were snubbed when the government put the project up for tender, allocating $12.5 million for project.


Early this year a group of Australian National University students who refer to themselves as the Imagine Team pitched the idea for a GPS-based bus tracking system.


They offered to build the app for the state-owned ACTION bus service free of charge but the ACT government turned them down, claiming it didn’t have funds available for the project.


But in a media release last week the government said it had allocated $12.5 million over the next three years for the “design and rollout of a real time passenger information system for use on ACTION buses in Canberra”.


“Currently there is no live service available for the public to provide information about whether their bus service is running to schedule,” Simon Corbell, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, said in the release.


Corbell said a request for tender for the supply, installation and ongoing maintenance of the system is expected at the end of the year.


Imagine Team member Andrew Clapham told ZDNet Australia he and his team were “stunned and amused” when the government revealed the multi-million dollar figure.


“When we came to them in March (with our idea) they said ‘There’s no money for this’. It was a bit of a surprise to hear there was $12.5 million offered for an idea so similar to ours,” Clapham said.


Despite being rejected by the government Clapham says Imagine Team would still be interested in working on the back end and app development part of the project.


“We’d hate to see the tender by an enormous project that only a large corporation can bid for. It’d be impossible for us to tender for the whole thing so we’d love to see it split into smaller parts,” he said.


Foad Fadaghi, research director of market analyst firm Telsyte, says developers should be wary of aligning their apps with government agencies.


“Seeking good legal advice is really paramount … there are issues around IP infringement, copyright, etc. All those things should be considered, especially if there are a lot of upfront costs (for the app),” he says.


Last month it was revealed the NSW government had blocked a transport-based app created by developer Ben Hosken, who created an application called Sydney Buses that showed the location of buses in and around Sydney and Newcastle.


In the two weeks that it was live it received more than 200,000 views. Last month it was revealed that on February 28 the government withdrew the live bus data the app was based on, ultimately closing the app down.


A spokesperson for the NSW Transport Department said the government does not have sufficient computer capacity to provide real-time bus information on an ongoing basis.


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