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Sharing data to help shape London's response to the Covid-19 crisis
15 May 2020
Covid-19 is asking hard questions of everyone involved in making sure London continues to function. We believe greater data sharing and insight generation between the public and private sectors can potentially play a pivotal role in providing the answers. Today, partners from London’s public authorities and businesses are coming together to collaborate on how this could best work in practice.
Coming out of lockdown and getting London safely back to work is the priority at City Hall. Working with the Mayor’s London Strategic Coordinating Group (SCG) and Public Health England, London’s Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell, and his team have defined an ambitious data-led response that seeks to heatmap movement around the city as restrictions are partially relaxed in order to assess how people are responding to the changes. Access to this information would be game-changing, allowing more nuanced planning, targeted communications and, as we move into a recovery, a better understanding of the extent to which London is returning to normal.
Today business stepped up to the challenge. London First, along with the Oliver Wyman Forum, Arup and now Microsoft, who recently launched a global open data campaign, convened almost 40 senior leaders from both the private and public sectors as part of our ongoing work to harness the power of sharing and analysing data to improve the lives of Londoners.
Public health is, of course, the chief concern. Here, data can be critical in flattening the spread of the virus by, for example, potentially monitoring busyness through anonymised and aggregated mobile phone data – as well as public transport use – to ensure social distancing measures are being well observed; it can also enable rapid and effective contact tracing. Multigenerational demographics are also important indictors that can identify at-risk individuals and ensure a targeted response that can save lives.
In a time of uncertainty, the services people rely on become more important than ever, and data can help us identify and match demand with supply ensuring the public, and crucially the most vulnerable in our society, have access to essential goods and assistance. We also cannot forget that we need to find ways to ameliorate the economy and help protect the capital’s businesses and their people. Data sharing can identify how we can best support business continuity and could shape an exit strategy for the immune population in re-establishing them in our economy at speed.
Finally, data sharing can help us to better understand the local context of impact – at borough level – while also providing us with that necessary London-wide picture that can help inform future policy making and strengthen resilience.
This was only latest and most urgent challenge the Commission has focused on. Since our first meeting in December, we have worked to develop a common understanding of the incentives and barriers to data-sharing, as the Commission moves towards the finalisation of our recommendations and pilot projects and look forward to publishing these in September. You can find out more details on the LDC page.
The Commission is resolved to do all it can to support public authorities in both responding to the current crisis and planning for the future. Data sharing requires, of course, responsibility and a respect for the individual’s privacy in a free society. With this important caveat in mind, true collaboration between the public and private sectors can not only help the city plan for the expected challenges that lie ahead, but ensure it has the inherent agility to best cope with a rapidly evolving world.
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