With Government 2.0 up and running, I decided to see how the iPhone toilet finder application developers were going. One site that produces Toilet Mate (a paid $1.19 app) has gone quiet. But another, ShowtheLoo, is still active with a free app.

[DDET But here is the interesting bit]

On their ShowtheLoo site is the following blog post which I quote in its entirety.

Response of Department of Health and Ageing regarding request of license for data

We have unfortunately received a negative response from the ‘Commonwealth Copyright Administration’ that will not grant us a license for the government funded project Based on the reply, there do not seem to be any hard, conclusive reasons for not granting Pantha Corp with a license other than that information should be always “correct and up to date” within the iPhone application which i am sure we would have found ways to ensure both requirements would be met by ‘Show the Loo’.

Instead of providing Australians with an alternate means of access to the data on – that the Department of Health and Ageing collects and a 3rd-party supplier manages on behalf of the government – whereby we could have integrated and made available information such as opening-hours, nearby parking places, whether there is access for disabled and if there are baby facilities available, we will switch over to integrating data from other countries such as the UK, Germany and the US.

We will continue to keep the Australian version of ‘Show the Loo’ free in the hope that the Department might re-consider their initial reply which i paste in here below in its entirety.

Thank you for your interest in the National Continence Management Strategy and in particular the National Public Toilet Map (NPTM) project.

The National Public Toilet Map website aims to help people retain their freedom, independence and confidence by providing information on toilets throughout Australia. The main target groups for the website are older people with disabilities, carers and family members. The website shows the location of over 14,000 public toilets around Australia, with information on opening times and access for people with a disability. Public amenities data is provided through well established and supported networks, including local councils.

The Department of Health and Ageing is committed to maintaining the quality and integrity of the data and has contractual arrangements with a private third party provider in place until 30 June 2010.

As part of the contractual arrangement, a mobile phone application was developed in November 2008 which is now operational. Any mobile phone which has Internet capability can access the toilet map site via the normal website address By entering the street address of your location, a mobile phone user will automatically be access information for up to five of the nearest public toilet locations, their opening hours and facilities.

In addition, an iPhone application is currently being developed by the contractor on behalf of the department.

The current arrangements ensure that people using the website and/or associated mobile phone application have, at all times, access to information which is correct and up to date. The department is therefore unable to provide you with access to the NPTM data requested.

Posted by pantha on March 16, 2009

This mirrors the response I got back in July 2008. It is simply outrageous. And where is their iPhone app?

This is a test case surely for Government 2.0. My hunch is that it is either (i) over-zealous control freakishness by the Department of Health and Aging or (ii) a short-sighted commercial contract over data management and exclusivity that was signed by them. Hard to know but it is interesting that this site seems to have toilet information while this one does not. Guess which one powers However, that could be something else entirely. Hopefully the Government 2.0 taskforce will get to the (ahem) bottom of this.


5 thoughts on “ToiletGate”

  1. Perhaps you should contact the third party supplier to see if they would, in the national interest, waive their contractual rights so that your proposal could proceed?


  2. Outrageous indeed. A short-sighted commercial contract is my bet. Thanks for posting the info. The more people are made aware of these data access issues the better.


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