Three ways to grow the open data economy

Nigel Shadbolt in The Guardian: “…here are three areas where action by the UK government can help to support and promote a flourishing open data economy

Strengthen our data infrastructure

We are used to thinking of areas like transport and energy requiring physical infrastructure. From roads and rail networks to the national grid and power stations, we understand that investment and management of these vital parts of an infrastructure are essential to the economic wellbeing and future prosperity of the nation.

This is no less true of key data assets. Our data infrastructure is a core part of our national infrastructure. From lists of legally constituted companies to the country’s geospatial data, our data infrastructure needs to be managed, maintained, in some cases built and in all cases made as widely available as possible.

To maximise the benefits to the UK’s economy and to reduce costs in delivery of public services, the data we rely on needs to be adaptable, trustworthy, and as open as possible….

While we do have some excellent examples of infrastructure data from the likes of Companies House, Land Registry, Ordnance Survey and Defra, core parts of the data infrastructure that we need within the UK are missing, unreliable, or of a low quality. The government must invest here just as it invests in our other traditional infrastructure.

Support and promote data innovation

If we are to make best use of data, we need a bridge between academic research, public, private and third sectors, and a thriving startup ecosystem where new ideas and approaches can grow.

We have learned that properly targeted challenges could identify potential savings for government – similar to Prescribing Analytics, an ODI-incubated startup which used publicly available data to identify £200m in prescriptions savings per year for the NHS – but, more importantly, translate that potential into procurable products and services that could deliver those savings.

A data challenge series run at a larger scale, funded by Innovate UK, openly contested and independently managed, would stimulate the creation of new companies, jobs, products and services. It would also act as a forcing function to strengthen data infrastructure around key challenges, and raise awareness and capacity for those working to solve them. The data needed to satisfy the challenges would have to be made available and usable, bringing data innovation into government and bolstering the offer of the startups and SMEs who take part.

Invest in data literacy

In order to take advantage of the data revolution, policymakers, businesses and citizens need to understand how to make use of data. In other words, they must become data literate.

Data literacy is needed through our whole educational system and society more generally. Crucially, policymakers are going to need to be informed by insights that can only be gleaned through understanding and analysing data effectively….(More)”