London will only realise its true potential if it unlocks the power of data, says key report

London should use the huge amounts of data generated in the city to help improve infrastructure, digital education, neighbourhoods and the capital’s resilience to major events such as pandemics, the London Data Commission has said in its first major report.

The group said data must be used more effectively if London was to successfully tackle challenges and “safeguard its precarious economic recovery”.

The capital generates vast amounts of data but it is fragmented across multiple organisations and much of it sits inside companies. The vast majority is never analysed despite the invaluable insights it contains.

The Commission looks at how London’s public authorities and business could share and analyse non-personal and anonymised data to benefit the city. It worked with Microsoft – which provided Azure AI, cloud infrastructure and services – the Oliver Wyman Forum and Arup to develop the report, titled Data for London.

Chart from the London Data Commission's report

A chart from the London Data Commission’s report (click to expand)

The London Data Commission has recommended the following framework:

  • A London Data Board to boost the use of data currently available in London and support the creation of an internationally leading city data platform, to bring together anonymised data from the public, private and third sector to deliver clearer insights into the city’s challenges
  • A London Data Charter to safeguard the anonymity and security of data from individuals and businesses, and maintain the highest standards of data management and transparency
  • Data Innovation Challenges to promote the use cases and testing of new data technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), digital twinning, blockchain and analytics, and help ensure these innovations benefit all Londoners
  • Finding new ways to Collaborate With Others, by providing a strong and coherent voice for London in discussions with government and other cities about how the city can benefit from the use of its data.

The commission has also launched four pilot schemes to demonstrate the value of private and public sector collaboration on data. These focus on developing insights into future infrastructure needs to support the rapid uptake of electric vehicles; transforming the way digital education is delivered by looking at the individual needs of distinct geographic areas within the city; creating smarter neighbourhoods that use data to unlock local economic development and employment opportunities; and unlocking data-led solutions to the key challenges facing London as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic – including how the city can improve its resilience to future threats.

Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive of London First, a group of leading businesses in the capital that set up the London Data Commission, said: “The pandemic has shown the vital role data can play in coordinating responses at a city-level – for example, on the busy times of day for public transport. The potential for data-led projects to positively impact our lives, from public health and education to transport, is limitless. We can no longer ignore the economic and social benefits that data-led transformation can bring. That’s why we’re launching new pilots in electric vehicles, digital education, and smarter neighbourhoods, which will harness the power of data to improve the lives of Londoners.”

A chart from the London Data CommissionMicrosoft’s participation in the London Data Commission follows the recent launch of the technology company’s Open Data Campaign. The campaign aims to close the looming “data divide” and help organisations of all sizes to realise the benefits of data and the new technologies it powers, including through data collaborations.

Applying this approach to London will help the city’s leaders to make informed decisions, communities to build resilience and small businesses to identify growth opportunities.

Cindy Rose, Chief Executive of Microsoft UK, said: “While London’s economy has been severely impacted by the pandemic, we have an opportunity to emerge stronger with a recovery based on data and AI. Across every industry, and especially in healthcare, we’ve seen how better data leads to better execution and results. New ideas, approaches and businesses will emerge when private and public information is brought together.

“Through our work with the London Data Commission and The Alan Turing institute, we are supporting the development of  a world-leading urban data platform to assess and understand how Londoners respond to public health measures such as social distancing as well as mapping the strength of the recovery across our city. As we enter the next stage of this crisis, I’d urge every leader to consider what data they might contribute to the project to rebuild our economy in a sustainable and inclusive way.”