London Datastore Discovery | Sprint Notes #1

Joe Colombeau, London Datastore Product Manager at the GLA

Over the next couple of months we’ll be undertaking a discovery project with the Open Data Institute (ODI) to help us map out the future of the London Datastore. The ODI have written about our aims for the project on their blog.

This is the first of a series of ‘sprint notes’ to update you on what we’ve been working on and what we learnt over our last 2-week sprint.

Project kick off
The bulk of this sprint has been focussed on tapping in to existing knowledge and resources while also preparing for our user research in subsequent sprints.

We kicked off the project with a session focussed on bringing the ODI up to speed with our current thinking around the Datastore as well as data sharing in London more generally. There was a lot to talk about as things have come on a long way since 2010 when the Datastore was launched primarily as a tool for transparency and political accountability.

As noted by Theo Blackwell in a previous blog, the Datastore is increasingly being used as a tool by policy makers to solve specific policy issues through the publication of data¹. In addition, earlier this year the Datastore’s scope broadened further to support the secure sharing of datasets that may not be suitable as open data (for example due to privacy or licencing considerations). This has transformed Datastore into a tool that can support the kind of city-wide collaboration aspired to in our Smarter London Together Roadmap. However it also means we need to take stock and redefine the Datastore’s evolving mission.

On the topic of city-wide collaboration, we also discussed our current understanding of London’s data ecosystem. This is complicated in large part due to the complex nature in which public services are delivered across London — with organisations including the GLA, the London Boroughs, Transport for London, the emergency services, and private utility companies all collecting, sharing and innovating with data. This is not to mention central government, civil society, academia and the rest of the private sector who all play an important part in this ecosystem.

An essential factor in the success of this discovery project will be mapping out this ecosystem to understand the wider service(s) that the London Datastore supports and what additional positive contribution it could make.

Research
The ODI’s main research activities will consist of a survey, workshops and interviews all supplemented by desk research. If you’re interested in taking part, please fill in the short form so we can get in touch.

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve put a lot of effort into trying to ensure we get a representative group of people into the room for our workshops. Invites will be sent out over the next few days.

As we only have 3 months to deliver this project, unfortunately we won’t be able to engage everyone via workshops and interviews so the survey will be an important medium for gathering a broad set of views and user needs.

Meanwhile desk research is already well underway. I demoed the current Datastore platform and we met with the team working on the ODI’s Open Cities R&D project to see whether any insights gained from this piece of research could inform our discovery.

Broadly the desk research will involve reviewing existing literature and other data sharing platforms to gain better understanding around:

  • best practices for data portals and platforms;
  • common features of open data and data sharing portals and platforms;
  • city-level data strategies which support city data portals and platforms;
  • innovative uses of portal/platform data; and
  • examples of successfully engaging local government, citizens, SMEs and community groups with portals.

GLA Conference
Lastly, to drive up a bit of engagement around this project Leigh Dodds and I spoke at the GLA’s conference for showcasing new methods of public service and policy delivery. It was great to see a lot of interest in the discovery as well as the Datastore more generally.

Check back in for our next Sprint Notes blog in a couple of weeks’ time to read about our first workshop which will explore the needs of users consuming data from the Datastore and other similar services.

[1]: Some recent examples of the GLA using open data to solve policy issues include publishing Ethnicity Pay Gap data to raise awareness of this problem as part of the Mayor’s Economic Fairness programme of work and the publication of data on cultural venues across London as part of the Mayor’s commitment to address the decline in London’s cultural infrastructure.