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Blow out the candles: London Datastore in its new form is one year old today

It’s a full year to the day since, with the able assistance of Datapress Open Data Publishing, we relaunched the London Datastore.  As one tends to do as the smoke of the extinguished birthday candles invades your nostrils, the London Datastore team were for a few moments nostalgic about the journey of Datastore this past year, and then contemplative of the year ahead.

First, the past.  An infographic accompanies this piece with the express intention of keeping me brief on this point.  All I will say is that we have been true to our intention to be a lot more proactive around the core activity of data publishing.  We have worked hard to publish – either from within or through other contributors – almost a blog a week.  We are undoubtedly better at telling stories around our broad city data narrative which exemplify how data can be used to meet city challenges, or tell a good chunk of our 45,000 unique visitors per month about our overall direction of travel and some of the issues we are trying to overcome.  We have added more use cases and there is a growing sense in our Borough Data Partnership meet-ups that we can cut through into the policy mainstream with a growing body of collaborative work.

On some items, like the Low Carbon London data release, we deserve a mixed report.  On the plus side, I liked this because a) the data was sourced from a new city data partner in UK Power Networks b) although it was static, at way over a million lines it is properly big and the London Datastore Structure did not fall over, and c) the Environment Team at the GLA used it in a Climathon event designed to help us tackle London and other European cities’ climate challenges.  I cannot help thinking though that we in City Hall need stronger engagement with the analytical and developer community to ensure much stronger exploitation of such a rich swathe of data.  We will aim to do better from here on in.

And so back to the future.  Before Christmas, we’ll have a minimum viable product for our integrated city modelling platform and the Mayor will be launching the London Infrastructure Map.  Both have been previously advertised on these blog pages; both are important in bringing data to the fore in policy discussions, and especially important as a new Mayor will inevitably bring with them a new set of strategies to form and support.  Developing this point, in the City Data Team we will be looking at how linked data can be used to provide a much more meaningful and near-to-real-time experience for the various audiences we are seeking to engage as strategies are developed and then published.

We will also publish our City Data Strategy.  This document is designed to push the Open Data agenda onwards and give shape to a complex marketplace, so that we can make smart cities and smart, digitised public services real.  With competition issues, regulations and standards all in play, this will be no mean feat, but we feel that the various publishers, potential publishers and exploiters of city data need a sensible steer from city government on the incentives and wider benefits of playing a more active role.

Citizens and/or consumers (whichever one you prefer) are also part of this system.  One of the more immediate research projects we are supporting is the Digital Economy Catapult’s work on personal data.  In this week when TalkTalk are still in the headlines after last week’s security breach this is obviously a tricky but highly important area.  To help make real the proposition of being made aware of your own set of personal data, how it is being and could potentially be used, and the value people, companies and the public services place on this data, we are developing a set personal datastores, based around a series of use cases, to be used over a period of time by our Talk London digital engagement community.

I will conclude with a quick playback of a discussion we were having last week with colleagues at the Institute for Sustainability, CASA at UCL, and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.  As part of a wider pan-European project, a great piece of work is developing around the creation of a smart and sustainable district.  The team has big plans for smart energy systems and buildings, human behaviour change, and using data to drive live operations dashboards and create proper predictive analytics to be used in the management of communities.  We are committed to offering the London Datastore as the data platform to underpin and showcase this area-specific work.

Long may this sort of collaboration continue, because I have a sneaky feeling London is only just starting to realise its data and smart potential.  The trick from this point forward will be to draw together the experiences of this and other parts of the London patchwork quilt.  Going back to the birthday theme, I predict a teenage year ahead.  We are promised all of excitement, invigoration, challenge, patches of frustration and the odd existential moment wondering why we are bothering at all, but I have no doubt that we not be bored for a single second and that the City Data Team will grow and flourish.

Click the image below to see the infographic in all its glory.