Establishing the London Data Commission - unlocking data-led solutions to our capital's challenges
19 December 2019
What if deliveries across the city were coordinated? Reduced congestion, improved air quality, shortened commute times, greater overall productivity of the transport network!
What if local authorities and energy companies worked together to identify streets or postcode areas with the worst fuel poverty and could work together to target resources for support?
Or what if private sector organisations could provide information to help pin-point our digital skills deficiencies to support the targeting of scarce training resources, upskilling the next generation of the workforce?
None of these are unrealistic and there are limitless possibilities as to how sharing of data and insights could improve Londoners’ lives socially, environmentally and economically. Some of this is happening already. London First’s work to triangulate data from Airbnb and Mastercard showcased how £13bn is generated by international tourists across London. Meanwhile, it is much commented on how the openness of TfL via its Open API has led to the advent of Citymapper (among many other travel apps), which ultimately makes our lives better by providing live travel times and thereby improving our journeys through the Capital.
So why doesn’t it happen more?
There has been a massive proliferation of data that society, businesses and governments continue to generate. This is moving faster not only than computer advancements but also than the thinking on how that data should be stored, managed and potentially shared.
In parallel, there are legal, ethical, practical considerations. Data privacy challenges. What would be the data transfer infrastructure? Clear and consistent standards would be needed to encourage different data collectors to share. At what level of aggregation would / should data be shared at? Who would regulate the system and balance social good with individual privacy, and ensure ‘fair’ value distribution? The recent backlash against the announcement of the NHS sharing data with Amazon to improve health outcomes is a good example of the need for clearer ‘rules of the road’ on the sharing of data now.
Why is this so relevant now?
History shows us that many fast-moving industries have waited for a catastrophe before regulating. Given the speed of technological advancement, it is imperative that for data, we are on the front foot.
This is particularly relevant to our city and nation. As we see a shift of power globally from West to East, and a wrestling for position on an international stage, data is an area where London is well positioned. Our recent study on AI readiness of Global Cities, ranked London first amongst Mega cities based primarily on its vision and recognition of the need to prepare for an age of AI, assets and resources that it can draw from, and general ability for the government and city residents to effectively execute its vision.
So what are we doing about it?
I’m delighted that the Oliver Wyman Forum has partnered with London First and one of its members, Arup, who specialise in built environments, to convene a London Data Commission, as announced by London First’s CEO, Jasmine Whitbread.
We had our first roundtable earlier this month. This brought together representatives from the private sector, central and local government officials and charities to co-create how we can unlock data led solutions to our capital’s key challenges. The Commission will be an authoritative business voice on city data, and answer key questions around: What are the incentives to share data? How will we address the big issues (i.e. Privacy, Ethics and Trust), How can we better enable data sharing (e.g. data quality standards) and how do we improve the overarching platforms, processes and governance that enables this data sharing ecosystem?
From our just our first set of discussions, it is clear that this is not just a talking shop – the focus is very much on the practical, by taking an issue led approach to identify challenges London is facing and work through the realities of how data-sharing could be transformative. I’m also excited, however, by the willingness and openness of the private sector to share data, when faced with the right issue.
This is just the beginning. We look forward to continuing to work with the London Data Commission to unleash the opportunities to data-led solutions to our capital’s challenges.