Data, Data, Everywhere. Now let’s make a difference with it.

5TH MARCH 2010

“Everywhere you look, the quantity of information in the world is soaring… Merely keeping up with this flood, and storing the bits that might be useful, is difficult enough.  Analysing it, to spot patterns and extract useful information is harder still.  Even so, the data deluge is already starting to transform business, government, science and everyday life.  It has great potential for good – as long as consumers, companies and governments make the choices about when to restrict the flow of data, and when to encourage it.”  Economist Feb 27th 2010. 

The London Datastore is the embodiment of the GLA’s ambition to unlock the power of the information held across the GLA family.  By admitting that Government does not hold all the answers, and that public services generally can always improve how they share information with others who bring fresh perspectives, we stand a better chance of tackling challenge and creating opportunity in the capital.   

So how are we setting about achieving this aim?  Well, we want to add more data, and lots of it.  Colleagues in GLA Intelligence have set out along this road by recently uploading the latest labour market figures, along with a brief report and visualisation covering ward- and borough-level analysis.  This particular data is the most detailed geographical illustration of unemployment in the capital – extremely useful in its own right and a vital part of the policy making process, but more valuable still when combined with other data by opening it up to the ingenuity alive in London.    

We want communities, public service professionals, anyone, to flex their muscle, to use the data we make available to raise awareness of issues, suggest ways of tackling them, improving lives as they go.  This is already starting to happen.  See this example of a posting on this King’s Cross Community website which shows how ambulance callout data has been used to map incidents of violent crime.    

And there is a wide open space to move into.  The Audit Commission last week published Under pressure: tackling the financial challenge for councils of an ageing population . That many councils don't know enough about the costs of their ageing population or the savings possible from preventive and collaborative action is not a surprise but here is another opportunity where those with an interest can add to the debate by accessing the data we hold on how London’s population is set to change. 

A wealth of other data features on the site - rates of alcohol related mortality, traffic flows, incidents of fly tipping, rates of sports participation - so you can take your investigations wherever you like.

Strengthening democracy and improving the quality of participation and decision making is at the heart of what we want to do.  It may be stretching a point to make it, but we’ll know we’ve succeeded when a feature of London Mayor’s People’s Question Time is the growing numbers arriving with new home grown analyses of the issues under debate. 

We believe we can start to make a qualitative difference with the numbers – to improve the lives of Londoners through understanding the pressures and opportunities affecting them and how diverse communities are changing.  

Hopefully you’ve got the message by now that we are undiscerning in where the idea comes from and who uses the data.  The important thing is that it is used. 

Andrew Collinge is Assistant Director, Intelligence and Analysis at the GLA.