The transportation sector is one of the biggest innovators and beneficiaries of open data, and Transport for London (TfL) is a worldwide leader. TfL data powers over 700 apps that 42 per cent of Londoners use to plan their journeys and even offers information on criteria such as air quality. Management consultant Deloitte puts the value of TfL open transport data at £130 million per year, with benefits enjoyed by customers, the London economy and TfL itself.
Rikesh Shah, head of commercial innovation at TfL, spoke out recently about the commercial value of sharing data: “There’s an argument that says: I can’t make ‘my’ data available because if I do I might go out of business. Well, it’s completely a false argument. If you give the customers the information they need and they want, that will create a better journey, which will support your revenue lines.”
Transport players are movers and shakers in the open data movement and are playing a big role in making Europe’s cities more connected and smarter. TfL works with King’s College London, whose sensors collect air quality data across the capital, and it also partners with organisations such as National Car Parks.
Education and transport are proving to be a productive pairing in open data and providing other useful services, including the London Schools Atlas. This maps every school in the capital, and provides information on catchment areas, feeder schools and travel times to schools. Critically for town planners it also predicts the rise in demand for places.
Beyond cities, open data is making a difference in the countryside and to agriculture and food security across the globe. Sharing data about pesticides, soil conditions and crop yields can increase production, improve food quality and reduce adverse impacts on the environment.
Agrimetrics, the science of using big data in agriculture, and the smart farm are set to play important roles in food security. The smart farm measures and interprets data along the food supply chain, and determines — and tries to prevent — variances, such as drops in yield in similar farming zones. Data-driven farming may the best answer to a reduction of arable land, compounded by global warming and spread of crop diseases.
In the United Kingdom, data belonging to the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is open by default and comprises over 40 per cent of all UK government open data.
More generally, open data fosters open governments and democracy across Europe.
As the European Commission’s Open Data Maturity in Europe report comments: “It enables a greater participation of citizens in the decision-making processes of their country, and increases the transparency of public spending and political handling. Open data has sustained the development of data-driven processes and activities in the context of smarter mobility and connected cities.”
The report notes that open data initiatives have enabled civil society’s watchdog function by making information on public spending, ownership and public officials’ wages more readily available.
Despite the overwhelmingly positive benefits of open data, its measurement and monitoring — which assist its rollout — are happening at only a sluggish pace in Europe, according to the EU report. It advocates four measures of the maturity of open data: policy, portal, quality of published data, and impact. Overall, Europe scores only 50 per cent on the measurement and reporting of impacts, arguably the most potent driver of growth.
At THRIVE, we hope to play a small part in promoting the awareness of the power of open data and its potential for change. Please join in our discussions on its benefits, as well as the barriers, in our LinkedIn group.