Putting data at the heart of policymaking will accelerate London’s recovery

A new initiative to encourage better data sharing between London’s private and public sectors can play an important role in recovering from the pandemic

London is one of the greatest places in the world for innovation, creativity and success. We attract some of the very brightest minds who make their homes here, build businesses, create jobs and develop solutions that make a real difference to how we live.

Technology is at the heart of these solutions. The past 18 months have shown how vital technology is: it’s kept us connected to friends and family, able to work and learn from home and is now playing a huge part in driving our recovery.

London has a global reputation for success. We see a string of British financial technology (fintech) companies achieving unicorn status and our world-leading universities help create the talent who will keep the ideas coming.

Today, as we look to the future of London, the best and most sustainable way to build back following the pandemic is to build back smarter.

I want to see us learning from our experience of the pandemic to put data at the heart of all of our policy making.

London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, knows how important this is. His re-election manifesto committed to rebuilding the London Datastore, currently home to over 700 freely available datasets, as the central register linking data across our city. That in turn will help analysts, researchers and policymakers understand our city and develop new ideas and solutions.

To help take the next step and create a data ecosystem that can improve millions of Londoners lives, businesses across our capital are committing their expertise and insights.

At London First, we have launched the London Data Charter, expertly put together by Pinsent Masons, and setting out the guiding principles for private and public sector data collaborations, which are key to creating this ecosystem. These include a focus on protecting privacy and security of data, promoting trust and sharing learnings with others – creating scalable solutions to meet the capital’s challenges.

The likes of Arup, Microsoft, Oliver Wyman, PwC, Thames Water, Uber, Bloomberg, BT, Grant Thornton, BP and UK Power Networks are already building on the principles and working on data-sharing projects, identifying where electric vehicle infrastructure will make the biggest difference in meeting London’s net zero goals and mapping digital exclusion to help target resources.

We now want to bring more businesses on board and help unlock some often hard-to-access, but invaluable, data. If we get that right, it will support London First’s key priorities for recovery:

  • Getting the buzz back with a better-funded, longer-running and larger-scale campaign to bring more people back to central London.
  • A new funding model to keep our transport network operating at full strength.
  • A plan to tackle the cocktail of complexity that is the London labour market – starting with a business-led reskilling programme, underpinned by greater devolution to meet local needs.
  • Accelerating London’s recovery will save businesses, save jobs – and save livelihoods.

Renewing London must not be left to chance. Technology will help drive our capital’s renewal, and I urge any organisation interested in using data for good to take a look at the London Data Charter. By signing up, you will become part of a community of experts working with London’s chief digital officer to unlock data and tackle the capital’s biggest challenges.

Mel Hobson is chief operating officer at London First.

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