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ODI and Sport England launch project using data to break down exercise barriers

Ten startups have been chosen as part of the OpenActive accelerator programme to develop fitness products and encourage people to be active

The Open Data Institute (ODI) and Sport England have joined forces to launch an OpenActive accelerator programme aimed at tackling the main barriers stopping UK citizens exercising more regularly.

After opening applications in February 2018, the ODI and Sport England have selected 10 startups which will spend the next six months developing apps and websites aimed to make it easier for people to find ways of engaging in physical activity.

The startups will be able to use using the ODI’s OpenActive data feed, which collates information from fitness providers about local exercise opportunities and classes.

As part of the programme, the participants will be given access to mentoring, along with advice and workspace for a six-month period.

Speaking to Computer Weekly, Jeni Tennision, CEO of ODI, said the company proactively selected around 100 companies, before shortlisting 15 to go to a boot-camp and then choosing the top 10.

“They were assessed on a range of criteria. We looked for ones that were definitely going to be using the data in a range of different ways and had promising teams and scalable ideas about what it is they could do,” she said.

UK fitness inactivity

The accelerator aims to tackle the issues around fitness inactivity. A Sport England survey found 18 million people in the UK struggle to maintain an active lifestyle and more than a quarter of the country’s population does less than 30 minutes of exercise per week.

Sport England’s strategic lead for data and market innovation, Allison Savich, told Computer Weekly there are two main barriers restricting citizens:

“A lot of people will first tell you about things like time, money and being able to fit it into their life. But then there are lot of emotion barriers as well,” she said.

“The emotion barrier that a lot of women have is the fear of judgement to being active. As a mother, I might be fearful that I am spending time away from my kids and I know people will judge me as a result of doing that.

“And it’s not just women. Men have similar barriers in terms of going into a gym can be quite a daunting experience. A lot of things go around in your head that might actually prevent you from walking through that door. ”

ODI’s Tennision said the programme aims to use OpenActive data to solve these issues by making it easier for people to find local exercise groups and classes.

“[OpenActive] is really trying to make data available so that organisations like these startups can use it to get more people more active. We’re running the accelerator because the startups involved can create those kinds of products on the back of this data and really show what’s possible as well as creating really good impact tools,” she said.

“This programme is demonstrating how data can make a difference in a sector like sport and how we can benefit from sharing data and making it more openly available.”

Sport England’s Savich added that although the company is hopeful, it is unclear at this stage whether a new group of startups will be selected after the first six months have concluded.

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