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Friday, 06 March 2009 16:13

Sydney RailCorp tells iPhone developer not to help commuters!

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One has to really wonder how the people who run a public transport system got their jobs when they start threatening entrepreneurial technology innovators who try to help their commuters. In the case of Sydney's RailCorp, the NSW Government should seriously start looking at getting some new management talent into the organisation.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald by Asher Moses about how RailCorp is threatening to sue third party developers who have built applications to provide timetable information on mobile devices beggars belief.

A particular developer has by all accounts developed a very popular and cheap application that provides RailCorp timetables on iPhones and other mobile devices.

One would think that in a sensible world this would make RailCorp happy.

Imagine that, a technology entrepreneur who off his own bat has developed an application that provides a service to RailCorp customers that costs RailCorp nothing!

All RailCorp has to do is keep on doing what it's supposed to do, issue timetables on its website and run its transport system.

However, instead of thanking this developer and offering to work more closely with him by say offering to provide up to the minute data feeds for his application, RailCorp accuses him of stealing its timetable information.

Apparently, in this crazy mixed up world of digital rights management, the free timetable information RailCorp's website can't be copied and repackaged for sale in a useful format by an entrepreneurial developer.

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No, in Sydney, currently the biggest economic basket case in Australia's recessed economy, only an inefficient government owned transport organisation that loses money has the right to use its timetable data to develop the sort of applications that developer Nick Maher did.

Except RailCorp hasn't developed such an application - it's not a software development company is it?

Heaven forbid that an independent developer should screen scrape time table data off RailCorp's website and repackage it for a $2.49 iPhone application. Apparently the timetable information is out-of-date and could potentially confuse customers says RailCorp. So whose fault is that?

Now of course RailCorp can choose to license a preferred supplier to develop its own system. It will cost taxpayers' money in these hard times but perhaps it should do so anyway.

Then again, without spending a cent it could actually encourage local developers to like Mr Maher to build innovative transport information systems, share data and even come to a revenue sharing arrangement.

But of course we're talking about a state government organisation here. All of the above makes too much sense.

It seems that the bureacrats in RailCorp don't like the idea of entrepreneurs creating wealth and jobs by developing smart technology. They would rather wait until they get round to doing it themselves while getting taxpayers to pay for it.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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