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Why the London Data Charter could be a foundation stone in the city’s recovery

London First’s director of connectivity and competitiveness, David Lutton, explains why data is at the core of the capital’s recovery plan

London’s approach to its data is at the core of the city’s recovery plan. Beyond its role in improving digital inclusion, the insights that data provides are what shapes policy to achieve the wider goals of delivering a cleaner, greener and more equitable city.

Crucially, data sharing is allowing policy-makers to create a picture of the city’s economic performance in real time and in higher definition. This is vital in understanding how best to support hard-pressed high streets and respond to the changes in London’s labour market. As we prepare to make good on a city-wide unlocking and recovery strategy, London’s policy-makers require a smarter view of the way their interventions are changing the capital. 

The Data for London working group has seen huge enthusiasm to work with the public sector in developing this data-led view. Data managers and corporate leaders recognise the huge potential to address city-wide challenges, create an environment optimised for strong growth and build platforms that will enable transformational opportunities – but there are still barriers to making it happen.

With this in mind, the working group met last month to develop this tool for removing some of the barriers to securely sharing anonymised datasets held by the private sector.

The new Data Charter for London is our attempt to address this complexity and remove some of the friction in the system when it comes to data sharing, while being fully transparent about protecting people’s right to privacy and data security.

This discussion is feeding into the creation of a charter that can serve as the operational DNA for the creation of new types of data-sharing platforms between partners. These platforms will promote real-time sharing of datasets held by the private sector, backed by clear principles and memorandums of understanding that will provide comprehensive guarantees to anonymity and compliance with the highest standards of data handling. 

There are some clear lessons to apply from the Greater London Authority’s exceptional London Data Store, and the two projects are fundamentally linked. 

The Data for London group is bringing together the right data specialists and public officials to discuss the practical purposes the data could be put to, including the role it needs to play to deliver the mayor’s priorities on targeting digital inequalities, improving air quality and helping high streets to bounce back.

Beyond the projects that would make a difference right now, we discussed the type of framework that would need to be in place to deliver the long-term gains and opportunities that data aggregation can unlock. This conversation often returned to the needs of Londoners and the opportunity to make tangible improvements to quality of life. 

This work is currently centred on London’s data, but the framework we are developing could be adapted to work in any UK city. Indeed, it is our hope that the charter can act as an adaptable model for urban areas beyond the UK. Since launching the Data Commission recommendations, we have been encouraged by the conversations we have had with other metro regions looking to take a similar approach in their region.

We are equally keen to apply lessons for anywhere that is currently getting this right and ensure the highest standards are used. This will help to create a globally leading open-data ecosystem in both London’s public and private sectors. We hope the London Data Charter is the next step in unleashing its transformative potential.

David Lutton is London First’s director of connectivity and competitiveness. London First was set up to bring together the public sector and businesses to drive positive change in the capital. It established the London Data Commission in 2019 with the aim of it becoming the authoritative business voice on the capital’s data and to help kick-start data-led solutions to London’s key challenges.

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