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The Mayor of London The London Assembly

Saved by the Bell – Hypercat Summit Talk

I spoke at the Hypercat Summit earlier this week.  I suffered the shame of being buzzed out when my allotted three minutes were up, so here is my talk, published in full….


I will be straightforward.  I want to see a range of actors in this city aware of and organised around the sharing and exploitation of city data.

I chose the word ‘city’ carefully.  It encapsulates what city government should be aiming for – putting a broader swathe of data to work; properly driving value from it.  ‘Open’ is too strongly associated with accountability and transparency in government.  Perfectly laudable aims, but often leading to the publishing of redundant datasets.

But who are these actors?  The generators and ‘holders’ (there is a loaded word) of the stuff.  Government – local authorities are still holding valuable city service data.  Utilities – water, gas, electricity – represent significant pieces of the city data jigsaw.  Developers too, who can help build smart services and buildings into new communities like Old Oak Common.

‘Enablers’ like Hypercat will clear some of the fog around the Internet of Things and help us create next stage city data analytics and the better management of assets, infrastructure and place.  This part of the smart city system will be crucial in a next generation of city data driven services which will pass on genuine benefit to citizens and consumers.

And so lastly, as serial producers of data, now and more so in the future, individuals and households must be considered actors too.  We urgently need to take the debate on data privacy and sharing to them.  Note that recent and rather sketchy headlines are damaging in this regard.

What else do we need? Standards to drive harmonisation and interoperability.  Sensible regulation that makes careful sharing more obligation than aspiration. Why should adult social care data in Barnet and neighbouring Haringey be like German is to Spanish?  The same goes for a whole range of other policy areas which pay no attention to administrative boundaries.

It feels off-trend to utter anything European but we need an Esperanto – that common language and ontology – for city data to deliver revenue savings and the new business models we know to be within our reach.

What will be the next Air b’n’b or Uber to land on this city?  How disruptive will it be and I ask how can city government anticipate and work with the innovation grain?

There are signs that the new era of collaboration and data sharing is happening.  In the coming weeks we will be releasing new city datasets on the London Datastore – chief amongst these being 200 million lines worth of household energy consumption data from UK Power Networks.

And so to my final point.  As is often the case, it is not technology that will break us.  Rather, to do this thing called city data properly we need a change of culture, organisational behaviour and a heightened political emphasis.

It is now time for city government to be more deterministic.  We are good publishers, but not the world class sharers and exploiters of data we now need to be.

We know our city issues.  We need to group the right talents around them; to understand the emerging value chains which together can provide the solutions to complex urban challenges – IoT, automation, service design, rapid prototyping all have a part to play.  Government needs to better understand these disciplines and engage.

So a coherent approach to city data and collaboration around its exploitation is what I call for.  Without it – even with all the transport apps we have at our disposal – we will find that the train has left the station.