Data for London – A City Data Strategy for London

Welcome to the City Data Strategy for London. This document is built around the following vision:

We want London to have the most dynamic and productive City Data Market in the world. In our City Data Market, the capabilities, talents and capacity of all our city data partners will impact on our huge social, economic and service-based challenges. To make this happen, friction in the sharing and value-driven exploitation of city data will be reduced to a minimum. City data will be recognised as part of the capital’s infrastructure. We will use it to save money, incubate innovation and drive economic growth. And London will achieve global renown for data impact.

We will of course use this strategy in support of City Hall initiatives like the Smart London Plan, but we acknowledge at the outset that the Greater London Authority simply cannot deliver this strategy on its own. Indeed, data knows no boundaries and is hard to contain; so we should not try. Our simple aim is to make sure that London, its economy and its communities are able to derive maximum benefit from the undoubted potential London’s Data Market can deliver.

It therefore signals the start of a plan which will actively integrate and mobilise all the ‘working parts’ of the city data economy. We want the various audiences that the Strategy is aimed at to engage with it. We promise to listen and to evolve the strategy as this rapidly developing part of the cityscape develops.

The Case for a City Data Strategy

Data offers new insights and ways of delivering better services to citizens – from public health and social care, to refuse collection, public transport, and to retail in the private sector. New approaches to managing already hard-pressed infrastructure are also possible and needed. On all fronts, we need to continue to make London’s growth story a positive one, and to keep the city running smoothly.

Today, the pace of technology change is as staggering – we communicate constantly on social media and mobile devices and depend upon digital technology to bank, shop, access services and navigate our way through everyday life. Ninety percent of the data circulating on the Internet today was created within the last 2 years. And the emergence of data is not about to slow. Emerging sectors like the circular economy have the potential to generate new forms of data to which we must try to give structure, organisation and form, if they are to function properly. The city needs to be planned and built with data, and future data exploitation, in mind.

So our capacity to understand how people live and places work, and to create economic impact and social value from data and technology has never been stronger. In the tech economy, we have the modern economy’s poster child. The Centre for Economic and Business Research estimates that ‘big data’ alone will create 58,000 jobs over the period 2012-17. There are 40,000 digital businesses and 200,000 employees in London’s technology sector.

Yet data does not quite seem to flow into and benefit the economy and society as it should. We are not always able to access the data we need to answer city challenges, the technical architecture falls short of what is needed, regulation and governance are more often than not found to be responding to, rather than proactively creating the bow wave for full data exploitation. Culturally and organisationally we do not seem quite able to connect up the new data economy skills with our city government challenges. As individuals, we often have little idea of how we are creating data and the uses to which it is put by various parties.

An Open City Hall needs your Help

Change is already starting to happen in London. Now we need to organise ourselves more strongly around achieving the potential that lies untapped in the data that remains stowed away, as well as in the talents we can group around it.

This document signals the need for further work in complex and multi-faceted technical, policy and regulatory areas. It is also concerned with equally difficult questions of culture and organisational capacity in an emerging field.

We are clear on two things.

  1. This strategy does not contain all the answers.
  2. City Hall is not capable of reaching solutions without adopting a collaborative and wholly open approach.

We therefore invite you to be part of what we believe to be one of the first exercises of its kind in a global city. Help us to make a reality of the City Data Market to the benefit of all – business, government, and citizen.

A full version of the document is available to download here or read individual chapters using the links below:

How to reference and cite the source material of this document:
Larissa C. Romualdo-Suzuki, “Data as Infrastructure for Smart Cities”, PhD Thesis. University College London (2015). URL :