City-wide data in London (Part 2): Where we want to get to

In my previous post I looked at how city-wide data is playing a role in London’s pandemic response and recovery.

Our aim at the Greater London Authority is to realise potential of city data to solve city challenges by putting it in the hands of those who can make a difference.

So we’ve accelerated work on a new city data platform and underpinning approach to city data which will:

Develop capacity and expertise in ‘near-time’ data

Build leadership, reduce friction and share data responsibly

Enhance the city’s collective capability to make actionable insights arising from the data held by public services and others

Use data to support more open call challenges with London’s tech sector

Pool investment and form better external partnerships on specific projects with London’s research institutions and tech sector

Take advantage of computing power, AI and emerging technologies to help solve more complex city challenges

The questions for us are how to create an effective data ecosystem in a city with so many different players — 33 local authorities, the NHS and emergency services — and building necessary scale while sharing data responsibly.

How we are going to do it

In the run-up to the crisis City Hall was in the process of developing a new approach to data, using the London Datastore, to meet changing city needs and the growth of the data ecosystem.

The Datastore is now used to support a much wider range of data than when originally launched in 2010, moving beyond its original purposes as a tool for transparency and policy development using open data. Since 2018 the Datastore has been used to privately share non-open datasets with partners, for example school place planning, and datasets to aid the COVID-19 response.

With the adoption of IoT sensors and 5G technologies we’re seeing a growing availability of sensor data being shared through the Datastore (a change from the usual static tables of data). The EU-funded Sharing Cities programme, based at City Hall has deployed sensors and other smart technology in Greenwich and linked feeds through to the Datastore (also forming the basis of our 2019 Data Trust pilot).

A ‘purpose-led’ approach

Earlier this year we’d started to define London’s approach as ‘purpose-led’. This emphasises a series of high-value projects, often with external partners, to meet clear objectives. It recognises that City Hall alone would not have neither the datasets nor some of the capabilities to use data to help solve some of our most pressing city problems.

In order to transform the Datastore into a core, strategic resource for the city, in 2019 the GLA undertook a discovery exercise with the Open Data Institute, which recommended several changes to the Datastore to enhance its functionality and user-friendliness with the wider ecosystem.

The discovery project helped confirm that a next generation of the Datastore should be built with a different scope in mind. Instead of a repository of GLA open data (as conceived in 2010), London Datastore 3.0 will act as a central register of London’s data.

This was followed by work with Public Digital to scope a future operating approach for City Hall — dubbed internally as the ‘data-as-a-service’ approach — which creates a platform for greater strategic collaboration with the London ecosystem.

A model for a central data registry for London

The following model sets out how London’s federated data system could work. The Datastore (and new Data team) supports the registry — which effectively acts as a library index telling potential data users where data is held in the city, enabling more seamless development of useful data projects (subject to data-sharing agreements).

In the next post (Part 3) I’ll look at London’s data ecosystem — public services, private sector and VCS — and how their work on data can be more formally linked to the new data platform.

@MayorofLondon CDO & Smart London Board putting data & technology at the heart of making London an even better place to live, work and visit

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store