City-wide data in London (Part 3): Mobilising London’s data ecosystem

In my previous posts I outlined how data was used by London decision-makers during the crisis and work towards a better central data registry approach which scales in value with the ecosystem around it — pulling in more data, talent and technology.

How London’s proposed data platform will work — mobilising the ecosystem

London today is probably better equipped to work on data projects than it ever has been before, and should be seen as a resource for recovery. A combination of new institutions, programmes and initiatives responding to the ‘data revolution’ create the space to explore and collaborate much more dynamically.

Fixing the plumbing — London Office of Technology & Innovation

LOTI’s work with 16 London boroughs since its launch last year has been vital to how we establish a better collective data culture across London. As part of LOTI’s Year One focus on fixing the plumbing, the team has been working to reduce the friction that makes data collaboration hard by developing an approach for data projects.

Progress on this could unlock data to not only give real insight into everyday problems, but help develop new digital solutions and even operating models for council services.

Potential COVID-19 and recovery data projects using the London Datastore

Building on existing work on information governance, Director Eddie Copeland sets five ‘foundation stones’ and accompanying actions to better data sharing — resolving technology barriers from data held in different systems; building data standards; smoothing information governance paths; sharing ways of dealing with common problems; and building better skills.

These translate into eight practical actions for the city to undertake during recovery, taken together they would transform how the London government approaches data.

LOTI’s data projects with boroughs and GLA

Transport Innovation

TfL’s Unified API, Established in 2014, brings together data across all modes of transport, providing access to the most highly requested datasets in London, providing real-time and status information across all the modes of transport, in an open and consistent way.

Transport for London’s (TfL)Transport Innovation team have developed Roadlab and worked closely with domain matter experts across TfL, London Councils and the utilities to further develop products including an automated way of modelling the impacts of roadworks before they are done; fitting sensors to TfL buses and Dial-a-Ride vehicles and collecting data on road quality; and using artificial intelligence to monitor social media to identify incidents and emergency events on the roads.

Another open call-based approach, Freightlab, forms part of the Mayor’s ‘open call’ Civic Innovation Challenge and, in partnership with Microsoft and the Social Tech Trust, works with tech companies to develop solutions to the most pressing problems facing the city. The initiative forms part of a wider-data enabled line of work including TfL’s Connected Retail London on adaptive retail space. London Connectory, in partnership with Bosch and Nitrous, uses cutting-edge data to tackle crucial transport challenges.

TfL have also built data into its Connected Autonomous Vehicle Guidance to support it’s Vision Zero ambition to reduce road deaths across the capital — a place-marker for how we approach the questions of ‘who’s data?’ in future emerging technology discussions.

Joining-up NHS data

Another big area of collaboration is with NHS health and local authority social care data through NHS One London, a regional collaboration across health, care and local authorities to develop shared health and care records.

While there are already many local integrated health and care records across London, they were designed and delivered independently of each other. Under this new approach regardless of where someone is receiving care, professionals will have better and faster access to vital information about the patient so they can determine the right action as quickly as possible.​

Underpinning this work is an ambitious programme of public engagement — including a 4-day Citizens’ Summit in February/March 2020 -to understand and respond to Londoners’ expectations of how we should be joining up and using health and care data, ensuring that we develop policy in a way that builds trust and confidence with the public and professionals.

One London’s in-depth listening exercise around joined-up NHS data with a representative group of 100 Londoners over 4 days

Because we had already established the OneLondon programme in 2018, OneLondon’s work was accelerated to enable fast-tracked roll-out of joined-up information and data sharing across London. This has meant that acute, urgent and emergency care, primary care, mental health and community care providers across London’s sub-regional bodies have been able to access close to real-time information about a patient — a ‘single version of the truth’ — to provide the best possible treatment at the point of care. Currently 6.8 million citizens records can now be accessed via the OneLondon care record — 74% of the capital’s total population.

The potential for health data to be used for wider purposes can also be explored — for example how data can potentially be used to gain greater understanding into the impact of pollution or reduce violence in the city.

Working with the private sector- London Data Commission

Mobilising the wealth of privately-held data to meet city challenges is the focus of London First’s new London Data Commission, launched January 2020 and led by London First, Arup and Oliver Wyman.

The Commission brings together data officers from major corporate players — BP, Lloyds, British Land and Microsoft UK — and areas of focus include working with GLA and partners to:

  • identify digital skills needs of Londoners to support the new Basic Digital Skills entitlement for adults later this year.
  • support an open, city-wide view electric vehicle charging infrastructure and future needs
  • develop thinking around replicable data architecture for sensor networks deployed in new ‘smart districts’ being designed in London.
  • contributing to the Turing Institute’s Project Odysseus (above) to identify further datasets which can assist London’s resilience and economic recovery.

The recommendations of the Commission later this year present an opportunity to formalise the city’s work with the private sector and forge a new relationship on mutually beneficial projects.

Voluntary & Community sector

Communicating the importance of the data, knowledge and insights held by the VCS is key. Throughout the pandemic, City Hall’s London Community Response Survey has collected weekly insight from the sector across the capital. Creating a simple mechanism to feed in the challenges and issues organisations and their beneficiaries have been facing week to week, has demonstrated that with the right processes VCS data can contribute directly to needs-led decision making. This is an example of the importance of VCS data to the GLA, other public bodies and funders and we now should explore using a similar mechanisms beyond emergency response planning to inform future programmes and policies.

City Hall’s weekly tracker of VCS and beneficiary needs

The crisis also demonstrated a known need — to build data skills and capacity within the VCS so they are active parts of the data ecosystem. Not only should we develop mechanisms for them to feed data into decision/policy making organisations, we also need to support the development of data maturity within the sector, so they are able to collect, analyse and use their data to inform their own work.

Work in this space is not new, with Datawise London, a pan-London data literacy programme, currently leading the way, however there is a renewed emphasis to support the VCS to engage in data literacy programmes to ensure they have skills and capacity to contribute to and be part of what is a fundamental and ongoing conversation around data.

Collaboration is also emerging from the crisis through the Data Collective, “a conscious, coordinated effort by a group of organisations with expertise in gathering and using data in the charity sector.” Started by 15 organisations including Citizens Advice, 360 Giving and Catalyst, there to improve visibility and understanding of the needs of people and communities.

Finally there’s a need to facilitate and support collaborations within the VCS and cross-sector to innovate and develop new ways of collecting, analysing and sharing data to improve knowledge and understanding of the needs of the sector. We need to learn from the areas where we lacked data about the sector during the pandemic, which if it was there could have supported a quicker, more joined up response. City Hall should then work collaboratively with the sector to develop ways of having a sustainable and consistent understanding of the health of civil society and the people it serves.

A new Roadmap for City Data

The next (and final) post will develop how we take this forward with a new A new Roadmap for City Data in London.

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

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