Transforming industry with data

Data touches every aspect of our personal and professional lives. The insights it provides help us to make decisions, build services and spur innovation. It can be used to inform the choices we make as individuals, organisations and societies, to improve goods and services which make the world a better place.

We are continually developing our understanding of data, and its value to society and the economy. The ODI is celebrating its fifth year in 2017. In that time, we’ve seen data change the way industries such as transport, banking and the leisure sector operate, creating more choice for their customers and enabling new services to develop by bringing different types of data together.

This is only possible because of more data being published openly or shared across organisations and between sectors. When more people can access this data, we get much better value from our data infrastructure. Data infrastructure is like our road network: where roads help us navigate to a location, data helps us navigate to a decision. We strategically strengthen and sustain road infrastructure. We make roads available for anyone to use, maintain their upkeep, have guidelines so people can use them safely and connect them to each other. We must foster and develop our data infrastructure in the same way.

Transforming transport

A well-known industry example of data innovation that has improved our lives is also in the transport sector. If you’ve navigated your way around with Citymapper, tracked a friend’s travel with Waze, or saved money by car-sharing with BlaBlaCar, you’ve been a beneficiary of data enabled services.

Transport for London (TfL) was an early pioneer, making information from timetables, service status and delays available as open data in the hope that it would encourage innovators to create useful travel apps. This open data now generates up to £130 million in economic benefits* and savings each year. Over 600 apps use the data to help people travel more efficiently. TfL benefits from cost savings by not having to build the apps, several of which are targeted towards small groups of consumers.

Better retail banking

Retail banking is another area where data can be used to improve customer experience. While it is crucial that certain information is safeguarded, data securely shared or published openly using Application Programme Interfaces (APIs) can be used to build applications and resources to help customers manage their finances better – for example by finding a mortgage, loan or savings account with the best rate from multiple banks at once.

In 2015, the ODI convened an Open Banking Working Group with sector representatives and published an Open Banking Standard. In 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority mandated the nine biggest banks in the UK to provide open data and open APIs to improve competition in the market. Since then, the finance sector has been working collaboratively to implement the standard ahead of the January 2018 deadline. This monumental change in retail banking means many authorised service providers will be able to use the data to provide improved financial services to customers.

Getting people active

Sharing data can also open up new avenues and opportunities in the area of physical fitness. Sedentary lifestyles contribute to a range of health issues, and yet finding suitable activities to take part in is not always easy. Last year the ODI announced a partnership with Sport England to steward OpenActive, a transformative and community-led sector programme initiated by graduated ODI start-up imin, using open data to help people in England get active.

OpenActive aims to encourage sports and physical activity organisations to open up their data on activity sessions, from yoga classes to football pitches. This data is made accessible for anyone, so external services can use it to help people discover available activities. OpenActive helps organisations share and publish data with an open licence using the newly developed data standard for the sector.

In October 2017 over 76,000 activities were available as open opportunity data thanks to the programme, and OpenActive now has a new focus to stimulate the development of innovative products, tools and services with its startup accelerator programme to provide better experiences for customers.

Our data future

The number of businesses built on open data is growing every year. Companies are using it to spot gaps in markets and create valuable innovations to transform the way we live.

We now rely on data to make informed decisions in so many areas, and we need to build and sustain a robust data economy and ecosystem to realise the potential it has to change our lives for the better, balanced against our need for privacy and security. To achieve this, we need a strong data infrastructure, further investment in data literacy for all and an environment that encourages innovation.

We would welcome your views on how this can be achieved: please contact us at

Written by Jeni Tennison – CEO, Open Data Institute

*report by Deloitte July 2017 Assessing the value of TfL’s Open Data and digital partnerships