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ODI investigates use of private sector data by cities

The Open Data Institute is seeking to find out whether cities have the levels of access needed to access data collected by private sector organisations

The Open Data Institute (ODI) has launched a research and development (R&D) project aimed at understanding the extent to which cities can get access to data collected by private sector organisations .

As part of R&D efforts around supporting cities to become more open, the ODI is looking at ways in which decision-making in public administrations can be improved by accessing data held by businesses.

While a city’s data infrastructure consists of information managed by public institutions such as housing and transport authorities, the ODI pointed out that it also includes data generated by companies that work with those public bodies to deliver services.

To help cities understand and tackle challenges around accessing information held by businesses, the ODI has started to collect global examples of how this is being done, using a matrix inspired by the Cabinet Office Policy Lab’s Styles of Government tool to organise them. It has also made a Google Doc available to openly encourage contributions and comments.

The ODI cited Transport for London’s partnership with Waze around sharing traffic data for planning purposes as an example of a collaborative approach around data involving public and private organisations .

However, it noted that receptiveness to sharing data varies elsewhere in the world, citing Uber’s battle with New York over the city’s efforts to get the transportation company to share data.

It also highlighted a study into the Copenhagen City Data Exchange, which struggled to get data from private companies as they viewed the platform as “parasitic and of no benefit” to them.

The ODI plans to engage with people and organisations working in data-sharing projects involving the public and private sector to validate its findings, with a view of publishing a report. The ODI will also assess whether it will be developing guidance around the issue.

“Ultimately, we hope that the outputs of this work will help cities understand how others gain access to the data they need and inform their own approaches to accessing data held by the private sector,” said Jack Hardinges , policy advisor at the ODI.

“We’d also like it to encourage private sector organisations to consider how they can provide access to data to tackle the big challenges that our cities face,” he added.

UK-based civil society groups wrote a letter to government leadership in July stating that the National Data Strategy “goes beyond public services” and that any future plans “must describe how government will make data work for everyone”.

Read more about use of data in the UK government

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