Using data to change a sector: what we learned

As part of the ODI’s R&D programme, we set up a project to investigate how we could assess whether a sector is ready to solve problems using data. As the project draws to a close – with the learnings now being utilised in other key ODI research and sector-change projects – we reflect on the insights gained throughout the discovery phase.

This project examines sector readiness – it looks at how and when to apply successful data methodologies to a sector to create positive change. The importance of sector-wide change is outlined in the ODI strategy: ‘Within sector programmes, we coordinate organisations to tackle a social or economic problem with data, using an open approach. This creates impact both through addressing the problem and embedding good data practices and business models.’

What did we learn about sector change?

We looked at how data-enabled sector change occurs and some of the key factors that help or hinder that change. To build a wider picture of sector change, we compared a range of programmes – both internal ODI programmes, such as OpenActive, and external initiatives, such as those detailed on The GovLab’s ‘Open Data’s Impact’ site.

From our research and ongoing sector-change work, it is clear that sector change is not a step-by-step, linear process. Rather we think that there are several key factors that should be in place to increase the likelihood of a sector successfully transforming. Our suggestions for those key factors are as follows.

Key factors for change

The first factor is to clearly identify a potentially ‘data-solvable’ social and/or economic problem across a sector. Focusing on a specific shared problem keeps the project goal-orientated. In previous sector-change programmes, the ODI has helped to increase competition (eg through Open Banking) and helped sectors monitor and aggregate important international data (eg the pharmaceutical sector as part of the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) research initiative). Elsewhere, sector-change programmes have sought to tackle the faltering education system in Mexico, disaster planning and relief in New Zealand, and switching healthcare providers in the Uruguay.

After identifying a problem, a sector requires motivation to work together to tackle it. Without strong motivation, particularly from senior figures in key organisations, it is unlikely that any change will be successful. We can see this on the international level with any attempt to solve a global issue – such as climate change – where every senior leader needs to be driven to tackle that issue otherwise, as we have seen, the efforts will falter. To help motivate a sector, it is important develop and communicate a shared vision for the benefits of the programme. As this survey shows, poor communication is a key reason for failure in a change programme.

Sometimes there are issues of trust between actors in a sector that must be addressed before a change can occur. For example, organisations may not want to share data because they believe that it might impact their competitive advantage.

We think we can roughly split sectors into two groups:

  1. ‘incumbents’ – existing members who are motivated to maintain the status-quo of their established business models
  2. ‘disruptors’ – who want to establish a new model or paradigm for their benefit.

Increasing trust between these two groups can speed up adoption of new ways to use data, whereas a lack of trust can contribute to a fear of data sharing.

External goals or policies, political pressure, economic incentives and a desire for positive PR can all be powerful motivators. To see the value of data, often all that’s needed is evidence of its positive impact when used correctly. Motivations will differ across organisations – finding the right way to motivate a sector is an important early step in getting the programme off the ground.

The third factor is the importance of sustainable investment in a sector-change initiative. Sector change can be ambitious without being expensive, but there are still many different aspects that will require funding. Multiple organisations will need their own funding, and, as is the case with OpenActive and Open Banking, there may be a coordination body which also requires funding for its operational costs.

The costs of supporting or improving the underlying infrastructure during a sector-change programme also needs to be taken into account. For example, a programme involving the development of data standards will require dedicated funding for maintenance and updates – implementing a plan and budget at an early stage will help keep the project on track.

Due to the various angles of funding, each organisation is likely to need a business case to calculate what benefits they expect the change to bring – these could be revenue growth, revenue protection and/or social good. As with OpenActive, innovative early adopters are likely to bear more of the cost as they take more of the risks. It is important that early adopters are aware of, and plan for, the likelihood that they may have to repeat, adapt or scrap the work they do at this stage.

For any sector to change, there needs to be a minimum level of data infrastructure. The level of infrastructure needed will depend on the aims and complexity of the programme and the sector, and the focus of the sector change may even include improving the infrastructure itself.

The ODI defines data infrastructure as consisting of:

  • data assets such as identifiers, registers and datasets
  • the standards and technologies used to curate and provide access to those data assets
  • the guidance and policies that inform the use and management of data assets and the data infrastructure itself
  • the organisations that govern the data infrastructure
  • the communities involved in contributing to or maintaining it, and those who are impacted by decisions that are made using it.

Some of this data infrastructure may sit within organisations in the sector – for example corporate IT systems and data governance policies – but other elements may be external or shared, for example a standards body or regulator.

Another part of establishing a sector’s readiness for change includes assessing what data is collected, shared or published, and by whom. Barriers at this stage might include:

Hence, supporting and possibly improving data infrastructure – and looking at how this infrastructure operates across the sector – is a key step to take before launching a sector-change programme.

To make a change successful, there also needs to be sufficient data/digital literacy and skills across a sector, and arrangements in place for further upskilling as required.

Different roles require different skills: while IT/data specialists need to have a comprehensive knowledge of the technical requirements, senior leaders may only need an overview. It is important to recognise that most jobs now have some interaction with data, and that data literacy – an understanding of data and its benefits – is an important skill.

In our manifesto we outline that: ‘data must inspire and fuel innovation. It can enable businesses, startups, governments, individuals and communities to create products and services, fuelling economic growth and productivity.’

Following on from this, we suggest that a demand for data to be ‘published with purpose’ can provide a springboard for a sector to change to meet that need. The demand may be to use the data to create products and services; analyses and insights; stories and visualisations; or to help with decision making.

Sharing data does not necessarily achieve change on its own – it may need to be published as well-structured open data to allow people to build useful services or make better decisions. A good example of this is GotToVote! in Kenya, where Code for Kenya turned what was a lengthy data dump into a valuable voting tool to address boundary changes.

In the case of OpenActive – an ODI-partnered initiative which uses data to help people get active – innovators play a key role in creating value for the data publishers. They use open data about activity opportunities to offer new ways for a leisure centre or activity provider to reach customers, and ultimately support their bottom line. Innovators could be small startups or large established organisations, such as Public Health England’s Change4Life campaign.

In this case, innovators’ demand for data encouraged the physical activity sector to unlock more data, leading to the launch of our OpenActive Accelerator, in partnership with Sport England, which supports startups creating new tech products that get people active.

The ODI manifesto states: ‘Everyone must benefit fairly from data. Access to data and information promotes fair competition and informed markets, and empowers people as consumers, creators and citizens.’

Equity can involve a fair distribution of both the costs involved in running the programme, and the potential benefits. The AMR programme showed clearly how sharing data about antimicrobial resistance surveillance programmes across the pharmaceutical industry brought together potentially competing organisations to explore the benefits of sharing data through a central platform.

OpenActive saw the need for equity in several ways. Firstly, making the data ‘open’ led to a more equitable playing field across the sector, which allowed a more diverse mix of innovators to use the data in different ways. Secondly, to have maximum impact, it was identified that the data needed to create value for both publishers and data users. Thirdly, it noted that any coordinator of a sector-change programme (the ODI’s role in the OpenActive programme) must be independent and act equitably to all parties.

Alongside the legal and practical use of data it is important to consider the ethical use of data. Not only must we comply with laws such as consumer protection, anti-discrimination, data protection and wider human rights, but also consider the ethical issues around using data, such as communicating risks, and minimising any negative effects on individuals.

As we say in our manifesto‘the choices made about what data is collected and how it is used should not be unjust, discriminatory or deceptive.’ Ethics should not be an afterthought or something to consider only after something has gone wrong. Sector change programmes – and any data project – should embed data ethics from the beginning, alongside compliance and regulation requirements.

Effective collaboration is essential to make a sector change successful. A crucial part of this is engaging with the community to share a vision. In the OpenActive programme, for example, advocacy from peers on the value of the programme helped convince any wavering data publishers. Collaboration is particularly important to to develop standards (such as common terminology or formats), and to agree on data sharing and funding mechanisms.

It is important to note that in sector change, and in general, the data publisher and the data innovator are often separate entities. As such, different parts of the sector, with different capabilities and funding, need to engage with each other. This helps to ensure a plurality of experience, skills and voices represented through a sector-change process.

The other element of engagement is with the wider community – with citizens, consumers, media, advocates, researchers, civil society and government. Data programmes use data about people – and we must talk with and listen to the people whose problems we are trying to help solve. As well as the ethical reasons for transparency and communication, these groups can encourage, advise and advocate for the sector change and can evaluate and provide evidence for the programme.

Next steps

As this sector-readiness project intersects and overlaps with other ODI R&D work, this project is closing and the learnings from this research will now be fed into those related projects, notably Scaling data innovation, New service delivery models and Global Data Infrastructure for International Trade. The insights will also be utilised in current and future sector change projects the ODI is involved with.

If you have any feedback or questions please contact Mike Rose on Twitter or email.

Invitation to tender: An organisation to design a decision-making process for two data trusts

The ODI is looking for an organisation to design a decision-making process for two data trusts

26 November 2018

Tender reference: DTE-002

Call for tenders by the Open Data Institute
Contact: [email protected]

The objective of this work is to design a decision-making process for two data trusts.

The successful organisation will work in collaboration with the Open Data Institute (ODI) who will provide guidance, review and assistance throughout.

Summary and timeline

Aim
To design a decision-making process for two data trusts.

Audience
The primary audience will be people and organisations with an interest in the data held by the data trusts.

The secondary audience will be people, policy makers and organisations with an interest in the concept of data trusts.

Duration
Work to be delivered between 3 January 2018 and 31 March 2018.

Value of award (excl. VAT)
Up to £35,000

Questions to ODI by
5pm on 4 December 2018

ODI responses by
5pm on 5 December 2018

Costed proposals due by
5pm on 12 December 2018

Tender decision by
5pm on 17 December 2018

Contract awarded
12pm on 21 December

ODI brief successful applicant(s)
3 January 2018

ODI progress reviews
Weekly

Final work delivered by
27 March 2018

Tender reference:
DTE-002

Contact
[email protected]

Terms of payment

50% of the agreed value of the award will be paid at the beginning of the project i.e. 3rd January, subject to a valid invoice being provided, and the remaining 50% will be paid upon completion of the work, 29th March 2019, including satisfactory responses to all feedback from the ODI.

Background

The Open Data Institute (ODI) is undertaking research into ways to increase access to data for new technologies while retaining trust. As part of this work, the ODI is exploring the concept of ‘data trusts’, including whether they can increase access to data, build trust in the ways that data is used, and be made more repeatable and scalable.

After completing a discovery phase, the ODI has recommended a definition of a data trust for use in further work. Under this definition, a data trust is ‘a legal structure that provides independent third party stewardship of data’. Historically, trusts have been used to hold and make decisions about assets such as property or investments – a data trust takes this concept and applies it to data.

The ODI, UK Government and other stakeholders will now be working together to undertake three data trust pilots.  This tender is for support on a decision making process for two of those data trust pilots.

As it is funded from a different source at the same time, we are tendering separately for support on another data trust pilot. You will be able to bid on both tenders.

Each data trust pilot will consist of the following activities:

Engage

  1. Engagement with data stewards
  2. User research and engagement
  3. Running briefing workshop

Explore

  1. Exploring legal incorporation of a data trust
  2. Designing a decision-making process
  3. Designing a data access process
  4. Designing a technical architecture
  5. Exploring how the benefits of data access should be distributed

Evaluate

  1. Assessment of data trust viability
  2. Project management
  3. Communications and dissemination

The ODI will engage and convene third party expertise from organisations specialising in topics related to these activities.

This invitation to tender (ITT) is designed to engage an organisation to work in collaboration with the ODI on Activity B.5. ‘Designing a decision-making process’ on two of these data trust pilots.

At the same time we are tendering separately for this advice into the third data trust pilot as it is funded from a different source. You will be able to bid on both tenders.

Deliverables

The data trust pilots will not necessarily create a data trust. Instead they each will explore a series of research questions, produce a design for a data trust, and make recommendations for next steps to the particular data holders. Together this will generate significant learnings on the concept of data trusts and a framework for building them.

One motivation behind data trusts is their potential to increase trust in the way that data is shared and used. In some cases this will involve the trust of individuals whom the data might be about or otherwise have an interest in; in others it will involve the trust of organisations that hold data. Central to building this trust is ensuring that a data trust engages and makes decisions with different stakeholders so that the decisions it makes – such as who has access to the data, under what conditions and how the benefits of that use are distributed equitably – are made openly and deliberatively.

We recognise that the type and volume of stakeholders will affect your effort. We are currently finalising the scope of the pilots but expect each to include a number of organisations from the public sector, private sector, and third sector as well as some individuals. The ODI team supporting the rest of the pilot includes people who will help manage stakeholder relationships and coordination.

The successful organisation will:

Design a decision-making process for two of the data trust pilots. This process will cover topics including but not limited to:

  1. an assessment of the different deliberative techniques and processes that could be adopted (for example in the case of data about/generated by individuals, communities or businesses, how their expectations on data usage will be built into the data trust’s decision-making);
  2. the openness and transparency of the data trust’s decision-making and its publication of information;
  3. a recommended process;
  4. estimates of staffing and effort required to sustain the designed process.

We anticipate that each of the data trust pilots will require a different process, as there will be different organisations, relationships and outcomes required across them. We understand that some of the findings from this work will be applicable to the concept of data trusts in general, such as where a particular method might be more appropriate than another based on the types of stakeholders or types of data involved.

We expect the successful organisation to use different methods to derive the information required to deliver this, such as meetings with the ODI and data holders and/or workshops or design sprints to convene different stakeholders, develop and test ideas. We also expect the designs to be developed iteratively based on developments and findings from other activities undertaken as part of the pilots.

The successful organisation will produce:

  • a draft and final written report describing the process for each data trust pilot, which will be used to inform the recommendations made to the data holders.
  • a draft and final written report covering findings that are applicable to the general concept of data trusts.

These reports will be combined with the outputs of the other activities being undertaken by the ODI and published under an open licence for anyone to access, use and share.

Other deliverables, if deemed useful to meet the objectives of the project, may be included in your proposal.

Activities

In addition to the deliverables (and means of producing them) described above, the successful organisation will also be expected to attend project meetings and other events as appropriate.

The successful organisation will work in close collaboration with the ODI team to ensure the deliverables meet the needs of the project.

The ODI will, where possible, provide space to work in our offices in London, when members of the successful organisation wish to work onsite. There is an expectation that the successful organisation will work closely with the ODI team, which includes regular face-to-face meetings and being available remotely (e.g. using skype, email and/or slack).

Form of tender response

Interested parties should submit a costed proposal (in English) to [email protected] which includes:

  • the tender reference in the email subject line;
  • a short (no more than 5 pages) explanation of your proposed approach (e.g. methodology and scope);
  • a description of why you are well-placed to complete the work;
  • a description of the team who will do the work (including biographies and previous related work);
  • a costing at an activity level

If you have any questions about the tender, please contact [email protected] quoting the tender reference. The ODI reserves the right to make both anonymised questions and answers public or shared with other organisations having stated their interest.

Decision criteria

All proposals will be assessed as described in our public procurement policy. In addition, for this procurement we will be looking for:

  • evidence of experience and expertise in this area;
  • evidence of convening and working with multiple stakeholders;
  • ability to communicate well in written form.

Frequently asked questions

Q: Are the findings of the ODI’s discovery phase (which lead to the definition of a data trust) available?

A: Unfortunately, we can’t share anything in addition to what is already publicly available. However, you can find our exploratory research here.

Q: Will development and learning between tender projects be shared during the time period of work plans (January to March 2019) if different organisations are awarded bids?

A: Yes, learnings will be shared across projects.

Q: When will the scope of the data trusts be finalised and if this changes significantly would the funding be increased?

A: We are hoping to have the use cases for each data trust confirmed by the end of December 2018. We will manage scope to fit within the funding and timescales.

Q: Do you need two separate proposals for each tender, or can we submit one proposal for both?

A: We do require separate proposals for each tender due to funding restrictions.

Q: If separate proposals are required, could we have up to an extra page to describe how we would work with the other contractor if we won one, but not the other tender?

A: Yes, you can add an extra page for this.

Q: Are you also looking for an exploration of different forms of governance and how stakeholder and wider engagement would fit in?

A: The ODI will be recommending the governance structure for each data trust, based on the work of its own team and successful bidders for the tenders.

Q: Is 31 March a fixed deadline?

A: Yes, 31 March is a fixed deadline.

Q: Can the ODI give us an understanding of the different stakeholder groups across the different data trusts and what they anticipate to be the motivations of those stakeholders?

A: We expect those stakeholder groups and others, for example regulators and people who hold rights over the data. Our team are exploring their motivations and this will be openly published during the project.

Q: Who would be responsible for the recruitment and engagement of the key stakeholders?

A: The broader ODI team would be responsible for the recruitment and engagement with the stakeholders involved in the data trust and as such would enable access to the successful bidding organisation to those organisations to help design the decision making process.

Q: How do the ODI see the interaction with the legal guidance and the decision making working?

A: We are expecting to form a multi disciplinary team.

Q: Can the ODI provide us with further information in relation to any ‘deliberative techniques and processes’ that could be adopted. Have the ODI already developed any of these?

A: We are expecting the bidders to recommend appropriate techniques for the context and the stakeholders.

Q: What technology related constraints or preferences do you envisage?

A: None at this point.

Q: Would it be possible to involve more than one institution?

A: If you want to bid together that’s fine. However, we are expecting to contract a single organisation for each tender.

Q: Are academics invited to apply?

A: Yes, academics can certainly apply.

If we haven’t answered your question here, please email [email protected]

Invitation to tender: An organisation to design a decision-making process for one data trust

The ODI is looking for an organisation to design a decision-making process for one data trust

30 November 2018

Tender reference: RDPM-012

Call for tenders by the Open Data Institute
Contact: [email protected]

The objective of this work is to design a decision-making process for a data trust.

The successful organisation will work in collaboration with the Open Data Institute (ODI) who will provide guidance, review and assistance throughout.

Summary and timeline

Aim

To design a decision-making process for a data trust.

Audience

The primary audience will be people and organisations with an interest in the data held by the data trust.

The secondary audience will be people, policy makers and organisations with an interest in the concept of data trusts.

Duration

Work to be delivered between 3 January 2018 and 31 March 2018.

Value of award (excl. VAT)

Up to £20,000

Questions to ODI by

5pm on 4 December 2018

ODI responses by

5pm on 5 December 2018

Costed proposals due by

5pm on 12 December 2018

Tender decision by

5pm on 17 December 2018

Contract awarded

12pm on 21 December 2018

ODI brief successful applicant(s)

3 January 2018

ODI progress reviews

Weekly

Final work delivered by

27 March 2018.

Tender reference:

RDPM-012

Contact

[email protected]

Terms of payment

50% of the agreed value of the award will be paid at the beginning of the project i.e. 3rd January, subject to a valid invoice being provided, and the remaining 50% will be paid upon completion of the work, 29th March 2019, including satisfactory responses to all feedback from the ODI.

Background

The Open Data Institute (ODI) is undertaking research into ways to increase access to data for new technologies while retaining trust. As part of this work, the ODI is exploring the concept of ‘data trusts’, including whether they can increase access to data, build trust in the ways that data is used, and be made more repeatable and scalable.

After completing a discovery phase, the ODI has recommended a definition of a data trust for use in further work. Under this definition, a data trust is ‘a legal structure that provides independent third party stewardship of data’. Historically, trusts have been used to hold and make decisions about assets such as property or investments – a data trust takes this concept and applies it to data.

The ODI, UK Government and other stakeholders will now be working together to undertake three data trust pilots.  This tender is for support on a decision making process for two of those data trust pilots.

As it is funded from a different source at the same time, we are tendering separately for support on another data trust pilot. You will be able to bid on both tenders.

Each data trust pilot will consist of the following activities:

Engage

  1. Engagement with data stewards
  2. User research and engagement
  3. Running briefing workshop

Explore

  1. Exploring legal incorporation of a data trust
  2. Designing a decision-making process
  3. Designing a data access process
  4. Designing a technical architecture
  5. Exploring how the benefits of data access should be distributed

Evaluate

  1. Assessment of data trust viability
  2. Project management
  3. Communications and dissemination

The ODI will engage and convene third party expertise from organisations specialising in topics related to these activities.

This Invitation to Tender (ITT) is designed to engage an organisation to work in collaboration with the ODI on Activity B.5. ‘Designing a decision-making process’ on one of these data trust pilots.

At the same time we are tendering separately for this advice into the second and third data trust pilots as they are funded from a different source. You will be able to bid on both tenders.

Deliverables

The data trust pilots will not necessarily create a data trust. Instead they each will explore a series of research questions, produce a design for a data trust, and make recommendations for next steps to the particular data holders. Together this will generate significant learnings on the concept of data trusts and a framework for building them.

One motivation behind data trusts is their potential to increase trust in the way that data is shared and used. In some cases this will involve the trust of individuals whom the data might be about or otherwise have an interest in; in others it will involve the trust of organisations that hold data. Central to building this trust is ensuring that a data trust engages and makes decisions with different stakeholders so that the decisions it makes – such as who has access to the data, under what conditions and how the benefits of that use are distributed equitably – are made openly and deliberatively.

We recognise that the type and volume of stakeholders will affect your effort. We are currently finalising the scope of the pilots but expect each to include a number of organisations from the public sector, private sector, and third sector as well as some individuals. The ODI team supporting the rest of the pilot includes people who will help manage stakeholder relationships and coordination.

The winning organisation will:

Design a decision-making process for one of the data trust pilots. This process will cover topics including but not limited to:

  1. an assessment of the different deliberative techniques and processes that could be adopted (for example in the case of data about/generated by individuals, communities or businesses, how their expectations on data usage will be built into the data trust’s decision-making);
  2. the openness and transparency of the data trust’s decision-making and its publication of information;
  3. a recommended process;
  4. estimates of staffing and effort required to sustain the designed process.

We anticipate that each of the data trust pilots will require a different process, as there will be different organisations, relationships and outcomes required across them. We understand that some of the findings from this work will be applicable to the concept of data trusts in general, such as where a particular method might be more appropriate than another based on the types of stakeholders or types of data involved.

We expect the successful organisation to use different methods to derive the information required to deliver this, such as meetings with the ODI and data holders and/or workshops or design sprints to convene different stakeholders, develop and test ideas. We also expect the design to be developed iteratively based on developments and findings from other activities undertaken as part of the pilots.

The successful organisation will produce:

  • a draft and final written report describing the process for one data trust pilot, which will be used to inform the recommendations made to the data holders.
  • a draft and final written report covering findings that are applicable to the general concept of data trusts.

These reports will be combined with the outputs of the other activities being undertaken by the ODI and published under an open licence for anyone to access, use and share.

Other deliverables, if deemed useful to meet the objectives of the project, may be included in your proposal.

Activities

In addition to the deliverables (and means of producing them) described above, the successful organisation will also be expected to attend project meetings and other events as appropriate.

The successful organisation will work in close collaboration with the ODI team to ensure the deliverables meet the needs of the project.

The ODI will, where possible, provide space to work in our offices in London, when members of the successful organisation wish to work onsite. There is an expectation that the successful organisation will work closely with the ODI team, which includes regular face-to-face meetings and being available remotely (e.g. using skype, email and/or slack).

Form of tender response

Interested parties should submit a costed proposal (in English) to [email protected] which includes:

  • the tender reference in the email subject line;
  • a short (no more than 5 pages) explanation of your proposed approach (e.g. methodology and scope);
  • a description of why you are well-placed to complete the work;
  • a description of the team who will do the work (including biographies and previous related work);
  • a costing at an activity level

If you have any questions about the tender, please contact [email protected] quoting the tender reference. The ODI reserves the right to make both anonymised questions and answers public or shared with other organisations having stated their interest.

Decision criteria

All proposals will be assessed as described in our public procurement policy. In addition, for this procurement we will be looking for:

  • evidence of experience and expertise in this area;
  • evidence of convening and working with multiple stakeholders;
  • ability to communicate well in written form.

FAQs

Q: Are the findings of the ODI’s discovery phase (which lead to the definition of a data trust) available?

A: Unfortunately, we can’t share anything in addition to what is already publicly available. However, you can find our exploratory research here.

Q: Will development and learning between tender projects be shared during the time period of work plans (January to March 2019) if different organisations are awarded bids?

A: Yes, learnings will be shared across projects.

Q: When will the scope of the data trusts be finalised and if this changes significantly would the funding be increased?

A: We are hoping to have the use cases for each data trust confirmed by the end of December 2018. We will manage scope to fit within the funding and timescales.

Q: Do you need two separate proposals for each tender, or can we submit one proposal for both?

A: We do require separate proposals for each tender due to funding restrictions.

Q: If separate proposals are required, could we have up to an extra page to describe how we would work with the other contractor if we won one, but not the other tender?

A: Yes, you can add an extra page for this.

Q: Are you also looking for an exploration of different forms of governance and how stakeholder and wider engagement would fit in?

A: The ODI will be recommending the governance structure for each data trust, based on the work of its own team and successful bidders for the tenders.

Q: Is 31 March a fixed deadline?

A: Yes, 31 March is a fixed deadline.

Q: Can the ODI give us an understanding of the different stakeholder groups across the different data trusts and what they anticipate to be the motivations of those stakeholders?

A: We expect those stakeholder groups and others, for example regulators and people who hold rights over the data. Our team are exploring their motivations and this will be openly published during the project.

Q: Who would be responsible for the recruitment and engagement of the key stakeholders?

A: The broader ODI team would be responsible for the recruitment and engagement with the stakeholders involved in the data trust and as such would enable access to the successful bidding organisation to those organisations to help design the decision making process.

Q: How do the ODI see the interaction with the legal guidance and the decision making working?

A: We are expecting to form a multi disciplinary team.

Q: Can the ODI provide us with further information in relation to any ‘deliberative techniques and processes’ that could be adopted. Have the ODI already developed any of these?

A: We are expecting the bidders to recommend appropriate techniques for the context and the stakeholders.

Q: What technology related constraints or preferences do you envisage?

A: None at this point.

Q: Would it be possible to involve more than one institution?

A: If you want to bid together that’s fine. However, we are expecting to contract a single organisation for each tender.

Q: Are academics invited to apply?

A: Yes, academics can certainly apply.

If we haven’t answered your question here, please email [email protected]

Invitation to tender: An organisation to explore legal incorporation of two data trusts

The ODI is looking for an organisation to explore legal incorporation of two data trusts

30 November 2018

Tender reference: DTE-001

Call for tenders by the Open Data Institute
Contact: [email protected]

The objective of this work is to explore the legal incorporation of two data trusts.

The successful organisation will work in collaboration with the Open Data Institute (ODI) who will provide guidance, review and assistance throughout.

Summary and timeline

Aim
To explore legal incorporation of two data trusts.

Audience
The primary audience will be people and organisations with an interest in the data held by the data trusts.

The secondary audience will be people, policy makers and organisations with an interest in the concept of data trusts.

Duration
Work to be delivered between 3 January 2018 and 31 March 2018.

Value of award (excl. VAT)
Up to £100,000

Questions to ODI by
5pm on 4 December 2018

ODI responses by
5pm on 5 December 2018

Costed proposals due by
5pm on 12 December 2018

Tender decision by
5pm on 17 December 2018

Contract awarded
12pm on 21 December

ODI brief successful applicant(s)
3 January 2018

ODI progress reviews
Weekly

Final work delivered by
27 March 2018

Tender reference:
DTE-001

Contact
[email protected]

Terms of payment

50% of the agreed value of the award will be paid at the beginning of the project i.e. 3rd January, subject to a valid invoice being provided, and the remaining 50% will be paid upon completion of the work, 29th March 2019, including satisfactory responses to all feedback from the ODI.

Background

The Open Data Institute (ODI) is undertaking research into ways to increase access to data for new technologies while retaining trust. As part of this work, the ODI is exploring the concept of ‘data trusts’, including whether they can increase access to data, build trust in the ways that data is used, and be made more repeatable and scalable.

After completing a discovery phase, the ODI has recommended a definition of a data trust for use in further work. Under this definition, a data trust is ‘a legal structure that provides independent third party stewardship of data’. Historically, trusts have been used to hold and make decisions about assets such as property or investments – a data trust takes this concept and applies it to data.

The ODI, UK Government and other stakeholders will now be working together to undertake three data trust pilots. This tender is for legal support on two of those data trust pilots.

As it is funded from a different source at the same time, we are tendering separately for legal advice on another data trust pilot. You will be able to bid on both tenders.

Each data trust pilot will consist of the following activities:

Engage

  1. Engagement with data stewards
  2. User research and engagement
  3. Running briefing workshop

Explore

  1. Exploring legal incorporation of a data trust
  2. Designing an engagement process
  3. Designing a data access process
  4. Designing a technical architecture
  5. Exploring how the benefits of data access should be distributed

Evaluate

  1. Assessment of data trust viability
  2. Project management
  3. Communications and dissemination

The ODI will engage and convene third party expertise from organisations specialising in topics related to these activities.

This invitation to tender (ITT) is designed to engage an organisation to work in collaboration with the ODI on Activity B.4. ‘Exploring legal incorporation of a data trust’ on two of these data trust pilots. At the same we are tendering separately for legal advice into another data trust pilot as it is funded from a different source. You will be able to bid on both tenders.

We are also recruiting a Legal Consultant to join our team to help provide different points of view and reviews of your deliverables.

Deliverables

The data trust pilots will not necessarily create a data trust. Instead they each will explore a series of research questions, produce a design for a data trust, and make recommendations for next steps to the particular data holders. Together this will be synthesised to generate learnings on the concept of data trusts and a framework for building them.

The concept of data trusts touches on a range of different legal practice areas, such as data protection, commercial/corporate, competition, intellectual property and trust. Under Activity B.4. ‘Exploring legal incorporation of a data trust’, the successful organisation will provide legal advice in response to questions including but not limited to:

  • What types or forms of existing trust might be adopted and/or adjusted to create a data trust?
  • Is the incorporation of an existing type or form of trust required to create a data trust? Can the desired relationships, responsibilities and outcomes be facilitated through a different legal ‘personality’ (e.g. via contracts or by establishing an organisation)?
  • What are the implications of creating a data trust in terms of existing data protection and other domain specific legislation (i.e. establishing a legal basis for a data trust and the status of data controllers and processors in the case of personal data)?
  • How does a transfer of rights to a data trust work from a legal perspective (i.e. what is required to facilitate the transfer or delegation of decision-making capability)?
  • What types of liability would existing under a data trust?
  • What is the legal process for creating and operating a data trust (e.g. requirements, timeframes and costs)?
  • How does the legal nature of a data trust interact, relate and/or overlap with the data trust’s deliberative engagement processes, data access processes and technical architecture?

Some of this advice will need to be tailored to each of the data trust pilots, as there will be different organisations, relationships and outcomes required across them. We understand that some of the advice will be applicable to the concept of data trusts in general.

We expect the successful organisation to use different methods to derive the information required to provide this advice, such as meetings with the ODI and data holders and/or workshops to convene different stakeholders. We also expect the advice to be developed iteratively based on developments and findings from other activities undertaken as part of each of the pilots.

The successful organisation will produce:

  • a draft and final written report advising on the topics described above (at a minimum) for each data trust pilot (x2), which will be used to inform the recommendations made to the data holders.
  • a draft and final written report covering advice that is applicable to the general concept of data trusts.

These reports will be combined with the outputs of the other activities being undertaken by the ODI and published under an open licence for anyone to access, use and share.

Other deliverables, if deemed useful to meet the objectives of the project, may be included in your proposal.

Activities

In addition to the deliverables (and means of producing them) described above, the successful organisation will also be expected to attend project meetings and other events as appropriate.

The successful organisation will work in close collaboration with the ODI team, and other third parties such as our independent legal expert, to ensure the deliverables meet the needs of the project.

The ODI will, where possible, provide space to work in our offices in London, when members of the successful contractor wish to work onsite. There is an expectation that the successful contractor will work closely with the ODI team, which includes regular face-to-face meetings and being available remotely (e.g. using skype, email and/or slack).

Form of tender response

Interested parties should submit a costed proposal (in English) to [email protected] which includes:

  • the tender reference in the email subject line;
  • a short (no more than 5 pages) explanation of your proposed approach (e.g. methodology and scope);
  • a description of why you are well-placed to complete the work;
  • a description of the team who will do the work (including biographies and previous related work);
  • a costing at an activity level

If you have any questions about the tender, please contact [email protected] quoting the tender reference. The ODI reserves the right to make both anonymised questions and answers public or shared with other organisations having stated their interest.

Decision criteria

All proposals will be assessed as described in our public procurement policy. In addition, for this procurement we will be looking for:

  • evidence of experience and expertise in this area;
  • evidence of convening and working with multiple stakeholders;
  • ability to communicate well in written form.

Frequently asked questions

Q: For the purposes of conflict clearance, are you able to confirm who the second and third pilots are with?

A: Unfortunately not. The second and third pilots are likely to include a range of stakeholders in the recycling, retail and wildlife sectors. As soon as we’re in a position to share this more openly, we will advise all bidders.

Q: If you appoint two different law firms are you expecting the two firms to work in collaboration and come up with a single set of advice/thinking on this?

A: If two different law firms are appointed then it would be ideal if they worked collaboratively, but we also think that the firms will be able to work independently. We are recruiting a Legal Consultant to help us align the approach across the two projects.

Q: Would we be able to submit three proposals (i.e. one for each ITT individually and one for both)?

A: No. We can only accept two proposals – one per tender.

Q: Does the concept of ‘people and organisations with an interest in data’, i.e. the primary audience, cover both contributors of data and also users of data?

A: Yes, it covers both contributors of data and also users of data.

Q: Please confirm the ODI’s intention in respect of the use of a ‘legal trust’. Is there any scope to consider other forms of legal incorporation?

A: Our intention is to investigate and evaluate options.

Q: Please advise how different the ODI expects the data trusts to be and how different the ODI wants the pilot solutions to be?

A: We are hoping that there will be a common approach, but we are open to whether that is possible. The pilots will help us to do that.

Q: Please clarify how you intend to split the ‘general advice’ across the two procurements. Much of the projects will cover the same ground, is there a risk of significant work duplication?

A: We will work with the successful bidder(s) to mitigate this risk in early January.

Invitation to tender: An organisation to explore legal incorporation of one data trust

The ODI is looking for an organisation to explore legal incorporation of one data trust

30 November 2018

Tender reference: RDPM-013

Call for tenders by the Open Data Institute
Contact: [email protected]

The objective of this work is to explore the legal incorporation of a data trust.

The successful organisation will work in collaboration with the Open Data Institute (ODI) who will provide guidance, review and assistance throughout.

Summary and timeline

Aim
To explore legal incorporation of a data trust.

Audience
The primary audience will be people and organisations with an interest in the data held by the data trust.

The secondary audience will be people, policy makers and organisations with an interest in the concept of data trusts.

Duration

Work to be delivered between 3 January 2018 and 31 March 2018.

Value of award (excl. VAT)

Up to £50,000

Questions to ODI by

5pm on 4 December 2018

ODI responses by

5pm on 5 December 2018

Costed proposals due by

5pm on 12 December 2018

Tender decision by

5pm on 17 December 2018

Contract awarded

12pm on 21 December

ODI brief successful applicant(s)

3 January 2018

ODI progress reviews

Weekly

Final work delivered by

27 March 2018

Tender reference:

RDPM-013

Contact

[email protected] 

Terms of payment

50% of the agreed value of the award will be paid at the beginning of the project i.e. 3rd January, subject to a valid invoice being provided, and the remaining 50% will be paid upon completion of the work, 29th March 2019, including satisfactory responses to all feedback from the ODI.

Background

The Open Data Institute (ODI) is undertaking research into ways to increase access to data for new technologies while retaining trust. As part of this work, the ODI is exploring the concept of ‘data trusts’, including whether they can increase access to data, build trust in the ways that data is used, and be made more repeatable and scalable.

After completing a discovery phase, the ODI has recommended a definition of a data trust for use in further work. Under this definition, a data trust is ‘a legal structure that provides independent third party stewardship of data’. Historically, trusts have been used to hold and make decisions about assets such as property or investments – a data trust takes this concept and applies it to data.

The ODI, UK Government and other stakeholders will now be working together to undertake three data trust pilots. This tender is for legal support on one of those data trust pilots.

As it is funded from a different source at the same time, we are tendering separately for legal advice on the other two data trust pilots. You will be able to bid on both tenders.

Each data trust pilot will consist of the following activities:

Engage

  1. Engagement with data stewards
  2. User research and engagement
  3. Running briefing workshop

Explore

  1. Exploring legal incorporation of a data trust
  2. Designing an engagement process
  3. Designing a data access process
  4. Designing a technical architecture
  5. Exploring how the benefits of data access should be distributed

Evaluate

  1. Assessment of data trust viability
  2. Project management
  3. Communications and dissemination

The ODI will engage and convene third party expertise from organisations specialising in topics related to these activities.

This invitation to tender (ITT) is designed to engage an organisation to work in collaboration with the ODI on Activity B.4. ‘Exploring legal incorporation of a data trust’ on one of these data trust pilots.

At the same time we are tendering separately for legal advice into the second and third data trust pilots as they are funded from a different source. You will be able to bid on both tenders.

We are also advertising for a Legal Consultant to join our team to help provide different points of view and reviews of your deliverables.

Deliverables

The data trust pilots will not necessarily create a data trust. Instead they each will explore a series of research questions, produce a design for a data trust, and make recommendations for next steps to the particular data holders. Together this will be synthesised to generate learnings on the concept of data trusts and a framework for building them.

The concept of data trusts touches on a range of different legal practice areas, such as data protection, commercial/corporate, competition, intellectual property and trust. Under Activity B.4. ‘Exploring legal incorporation of a data trust’, the successful organisation will provide legal advice in response to topics including but not limited to:

  • What types or forms of existing trust might be adopted and/or adjusted to create a data trust?
  • Is the incorporation of an existing type or form of trust required to create a data trust? Can the desired relationships, responsibilities and outcomes be facilitated through a different legal ‘personality’ (e.g. via contracts or by establishing an organisation)?
  • What are the implications of creating a data trust in terms of existing data protection and other domain specific legislation (i.e. establishing a legal basis for a data trust and the status of data controllers and processors in the case of personal data)?
  • How does a transfer of rights to a data trust work from a legal perspective (i.e. what is required to facilitate the transfer or delegation of decision-making capability)?
  • What types of liability would existing under a data trust?
  • What is the legal process for creating and operating a data trust (e.g. requirements, timeframes and costs)?
  • How does the legal nature of a data trust interact, relate and/or overlap with the data trust’s deliberative engagement processes, data access processes and technical architecture?

Some of this advice will need to be tailored to the data trust pilot in question, as there will be a specific set of organisations, relationships and outcomes required. We understand that some of the advice will be applicable to the concept of data trusts in general.

We expect the successful organisation to use different methods to derive the information required to provide this advice, such as meetings with the ODI and data holders and/or workshops to convene different stakeholders. We also expect the advice to be developed iteratively based on developments and findings from other activities undertaken as part of each of the pilots.

The successful organisation will produce:

  • a draft and final written report advising on the topics described above (at a minimum) for the data trust pilot, which will be used to inform the recommendations made to the data holders.
  • a draft and final written report covering advice that is applicable to the general concept of data trusts.

These reports will be combined with the outputs of the other activities being undertaken by the ODI and published under an open licence for anyone to access, use and share.

Other deliverables, if deemed useful to meet the objectives of the project, may be included in your proposal.

Activities

In addition to the deliverables (and means of producing them) described above, the successful organisation will also be expected to attend project meetings and other events as appropriate.

The successful organisation will work in close collaboration with the ODI team, and other third parties such as our independent legal expert, to ensure the deliverables meet the needs of the project.

The ODI will, where possible, provide space to work in our offices in London, when members of the successful organisation wish to work onsite. There is an expectation that the successful organisation tor will work closely with the ODI team, which includes regular face-to-face meetings and being available remotely (e.g. using skype, email and/or slack).

Form of tender response

Interested parties should submit a costed proposal (in English) to [email protected] which includes:

  • the tender reference in the email subject line;
  • a short (no more than 5 pages) explanation of your proposed approach (e.g. methodology and scope);
  • a description of why you are well-placed to complete the work;
  • a description of the team who will do the work (including biographies and previous related work);
  • a costing at an activity level

If you have any questions about the tender, please contact [email protected] quoting the tender reference. The ODI reserves the right to make both anonymised questions and answers public or shared with other organisations having stated their interest.

Decision criteria

All proposals will be assessed as described in our public procurement policy. In addition, for this procurement we will be looking for:

  • evidence of experience and expertise in this area;
  • evidence of convening and working with multiple stakeholders;
  • ability to communicate well in written form.

Frequently asked questions

Q: For the purposes of conflict clearance, are you able to confirm who the second and third pilots are with?

A: Unfortunately not. The second and third pilots are likely to include a range of stakeholders in the recycling, retail and wildlife sectors. As soon as we’re in a position to share this more openly, we will advise all bidders.

Q: If you appoint two different law firms are you expecting the two firms to work in collaboration and come up with a single set of advice/thinking on this?

A: If two different law firms are appointed then it would be ideal if they worked collaboratively, but we also think that the firms will be able to work independently. We are recruiting a Legal Consultant to help us align the approach across the two projects.

Q: Would we be able to submit three proposals (i.e. one for each ITT individually and one for both)?

A: No. We can only accept two proposals – one per tender.

Q: Does the concept of ‘people and organisations with an interest in data’, i.e. the primary audience, cover both contributors of data and also users of data?

A: Yes, it covers both contributors of data and also users of data.

Q: Please confirm the ODI’s intention in respect of the use of a ‘legal trust’. Is there any scope to consider other forms of legal incorporation?

A: Our intention is to investigate and evaluate options.

Q: Please advise how different the ODI expects the data trusts to be and how different the ODI wants the pilot solutions to be?

A: We are hoping that there will be a common approach, but we are open to whether that is possible. The pilots will help us to do that.

Q: Please clarify how you intend to split the ‘general advice’ across the two procurements. Much of the projects will cover the same ground, is there a risk of significant work duplication?

A: We will work with the successful bidder(s) to mitigate this risk in early January.

How can we scale up local data-enabled projects?

As part of the ODI’s Scaling data innovation project, we’re exploring how to help local data-enabled projects scale up, and understand opportunities and barriers. If you have a potentially scalable project, please submit it to us.

Around the UK there are many ways that data – especially open data – and open approaches to design can be used to deliver more efficient and effective public services.

However, examples of data innovation in public services are not being effectively reused across local government or in the wider public, private or third sectors. Therefore, solutions remain local and successful innovations don’t reach as many areas or people as perhaps they could.

This is a recognised issue in the UK. In a 2009 NHS review, Lord Darzi stated: ‘In this country, we have a proud record of invention, but we lag behind in systematic uptake even of our own inventions.’

What do we mean by ‘scaling’?

We see two ways a project or initiative can ‘scale’:

  1. It can scale up. A project/initiative that has worked effectively at a small scale can be scaled up to improve systems, ensure sustainability, or cover a wider geographic area or a larger population base. This could be managed solely by the original project team, or in collaboration with partners, or franchised to an external supplier.
  2. A project/initiative can also scale out by being repeated, repurposed or re-deployed across other sectors, organisations or areas. The project team can share learnings and allow others to build on and reuse their work.

What are we looking for?

The ODI is researching existing projects with the aim of exploring any issues or problems around scalability. Gathering this knowledge and investigating how the initiatives have been developed will help shape project guidance and outputs.

We are looking for examples of small-scale successful data-enabled initiatives, whether they were created by local authorities, local interest groups or individuals. Gathering this knowledge, and investigating how the initiatives have been developed will then help shape the project guidance and outputs.

How does this fit with MHCLG?

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is working collaboratively with local government and others to develop components of a digital infrastructure. Its aim is to improve the delivery of digital services in local government. It is providing funding and encouraging local government to collaborate and reuse systems, software and approaches. Organisations are encouraged to sign up to the Local Digital Declaration and submit proposals for projects to be funded by the Local Digital Fund.

We’re also looking at building opportunities for collaboration and reuse across a broader range of organisations. Along with the public sector, we would like to work with local interest groups, SMEs and third-sector organisations, as these often work collaboratively to create change.

Our aim is for the project to sit alongside the MHCLG initiative, to provide a practical framework for project teams to use, to help ensure initiatives include the necessary aspects to allow them to be scaled and reused. We are engaging with MHCLG to ensure both workstreams are complementary.

A public sector focus

This builds on our previous work around public services and data. In 2017/18 we researched and presented findings on data use in public services, which investigated how open data can: improve access to public services; help to develop more efficient service delivery chains; and lead to more informed policy development.

As part of that project, we awarded funding to four forward-thinking local government organisations to develop open data projects that explore how data could be used to improve public services – making them more efficient, innovative and citizen-focused.

We are also running a similar stimulus fund for our geospatial data project to help grow the public sector’s understanding of how to collect, publish and use open geospatial data. Based on our survey of how local government in the UK collects and manages geospatial data, we know that there is a range of organisations that need local government to provide accessible geospatial data.

Barriers that may harm scalability

Although local government data projects may not have been run with scalability or reusability in mind, they could be built upon and replicated in other areas. There are many external examples of local data projects – such as Leeds Bins, Smartline, Mapping Greater Manchester, Gateshead food map and the Bindicator – that, while they have been successful, haven’t been replicated outside of their original geographic areas. However, other external projects – such as the Great British Toilet Map – provide an example of successfully scaling up to a wider area.

Through this project, we want to test our assumptions (set out below) around the main barriers that prevent local data projects from scaling. We hypothesise that if barriers can be anticipated and overcome during the design of an original project it can be scaled more easily.

We anticipate that possible barriers or challenges in data projects include:

  • Data standards – if data is stored in different ways and using different formats then a project may struggle to be replicate
  • Data availability – a project may collect and use a dataset that other councils or organisations simply do no
  • Funding – local data projects are often funded by a stimulus or innovation fund and therefore other projects may need to find similar funding
  • Engagement and collaboration – other councils may simply not know about other projects and their successes/failures and therefore be less likely to engage
  • Skills or resources – councils and other groups may not have the skills, time or resources to redeploy a successful initiative
  • Closed source – the relevant source code or materials may not be open and accessible to all

Plans

We are researching existing innovative data projects with the aim to understand barriers to development and scaling. We will engage with projects that are good candidates for fast and effective scaling. We will produce case studies from our research, focusing on the issues and decisions that impact a project’s scalability.

Submit your local data-enabled project

We want to find out about great ideas and projects. If you have worked on, or know of any, local data projects, please tell us about them.

We aim to gather an understanding of existing relevant projects so we can share insights, knowledge and awareness. Our aim is to help people to scale their projects and provide tools and guidance to help organisations build projects that are high-quality, reusable and scalable.

If you have comments or questions, you can email [email protected] or tweet @bsnaith.

Image credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 by Pietro Suco.

Lloyd’s Register Foundation and the ODI launch data initiative to make our railways, roads and power stations safer

The Lloyd’s Register Foundation, a charity which helps to protect people and property, and the Open Data Institute (ODI) are today announcing the launch of a new initiative using shared and open data to improve safety in our built infrastructure and across society. The announcement is being made today at the ODI Summit 2018 by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation Chief Executive, Professor Richard Clegg who will call on organisations to be part of the new initiative, helping effect change across the engineering sector.

The consequences of unsafe infrastructure was seen in September this year, where 43 people were killed when a 220m (656ft) section of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa plunged 45m, along with dozens of vehicles.

Accidents like this could potentially be avoided if more data was shared, openly published and available on our built infrastructure, allowing structural problems to be identified and improvements to be made. For example, data on the design and maintenance of bridges could help drive greater investment in maintenance or improved designs; data about ships could be used to predict faults and create safer environments at sea through early interventions; data about drones or driverless cars could even help highlight safety risks.

Announcing the new initiative at the ODI Summit 2018, Professor Richard Clegg:

“The engineering sector collects and holds a huge amount of data, most of which is currently not accessible. By working with the ODI, engineering companies and industry bodies, we want to see more data openly published, so we have greater transparency over the safety of our national infrastructure. With this initiative we want to build understanding across the sector of the value of data for the public good, and collaborate to improve safety.”

Over the coming months the ODI and Lloyd’s Register Foundation will be working in collaboration with a range of engineering and safety organisations across the UK including the Royal Academy of Engineering, to identify how increasing access to data can help inform engineering design, monitor safety, and improve operations of key infrastructure.

Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Co-Founder and Chairman at the ODI:

“Data about our physical infrastructure such as bridges, sewers, and electricity lines is a vital part of our national data infrastructure. It provides critical information about our environment that we can use to identify improvements and opportunities for better, safer, more efficient services. This initiative will look at where sharing and opening data would help the designers, operators and maintainers of our physical infrastructure keep us safe.”

Professor Martyn Thomas CBE FREng, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering:

“We look forward to working with the Open Data Institute and the Lloyd’s Register Foundation on this important initiative. The safety of infrastructure and other engineered systems affects people in every country and many of the same methods, components and materials are used worldwide. Engineers have a professional duty to ensure that their work does not expose anyone to avoidable risks and the open sharing of data creates a good opportunity to improve safety – and greater safety is also good for business.”

Photo by Simon Mumenthaler on Unsplash

‘Dystopians just wanna have fun’: ODI’s artist in residence on need for openness and accountability

With great power comes great responsibility, and the power accrued by some data companies sometimes leads them to the dark side when openness, accountability and humanity go missing from their worldview, says Alistair Gentry

I’m reasonably confident this is the first time there’s been a reference to a Cyndi Lauper song on the Open Data Institute’s blog [ed: you’re bang on], but in my work as its artist in residence I’ve been looking into the ways in which certain approaches can come across as either constructive or creepy.

Unfortunately data handlers – occasionally entire governments, hello China – really do seem to err on the dark side. The data analytics company Palantir Technologies, jointly founded and currently chaired by arch-libertarian Peter Thiel, is geekily named after the magical seeing stones from The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

In the throes of nerdgasm they failed to notice or perhaps simply don’t mind that communication via palantír is not a neutral medium; the palantír that features most prominently in the books is a tool of the evil Sauron, who corrupts and deceives the wizard Saruman every time he looks into it. Like most well-written antagonists, he’s the hero of his own story, but clearly not of the real story. I mean Saruman – who did you think I was talking about?

Two of Palantir’s projects are titled Gotham (relational data analysis that can be used for counter-terrorism and fraud) and Metropolis (analysing the behaviour of models, such as financial services) – these being also the abodes of Batman and Superman respectively. Or from another perspective, supervillains like The Joker and Lex Luthor, who could just as easily be the inspiration given Palantir’s form. For yet more final-reel-villain-reveal-vibes, Palantir’s sole initial investor was the CIA’s In-Q-Tel venture capital vehicle.

Elsewhere, Google’s founding motto ‘Don’t be evil’ seems increasingly distant from its extremely gymnastic efforts to wriggle out of tax responsibilities. Somewhere between Sergey Brin and Larry Page sitting in a room with a laptop, and Google becoming one of the world’s pre-eminent entities, ‘you can be amoral though’ was apparently added as a silent amendment.

As for Elon Musk with his space missions, disruptive-as-in-disruptive-child approach to technology, flamethrowers, impractical boy-rescuing submarines and egomaniacal monologues, he seems to be recapitulating the plots of Moonraker, Live and Let Die, and A View to a Kill, among others, all on top of each other. Again, he may be 007 in the story in his head but he probably seems more like Blofeld or Goldfinger to his employees.

Of the three examples mentioned above, Google is probably the most informative in terms of thinking about why data handlers can go so wrong, or be perceived as going wrong by so many of their users. This is not to single them out particularly, because these thoughts could easily apply to many companies and civic entities who hold data. Let’s leave Thiel and Musk aside since they actually seem to revel in being bad boys (emphasis on ‘boy’) much to the well-publicised chagrin of their staff and board members.

In the early days Google was small enough to balance on the tightrope between mining data for private profit and retaining the trust of its users. To not ‘be evil’, in short. The relationship between search engines or social media platforms and their users was always asymmetric because they were never entirely straight about what they were giving in return for what they got. There are probably few people online who haven’t clicked the ‘OK’ button on lengthy and complicated terms they haven’t read.

Achieving some clarity – and, frankly, honesty from some of those responsible for managing data – is an ongoing and unfinished longterm process, as the recent introduction of the EU and EEA’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) proves. From such an unbalanced start it’s not hugely surprising that on the way to becoming a global entity, companies like Google or Facebook would see their moral compass swing uncontrollably between opposing poles of data hoarding and blatant untrustworthiness, precisely because so many people use them every day whether they’re evil or not.

We’re almost talking about lawful evil and chaotic evil, if you’re old enough and geeky enough to remember Dungeons & Dragons. There’s a huge body of work to be done, by the way, on the influence of role playing games on the tech industry via nerd culture.

Not being evil isn’t merely a semantic nicety or a cute tagline. In a world where data is another layer of vital infrastructure, maintaining trust and being worthy of that trust is at the very least a sound business proposition. More so than, say, raving about child molesters when your crackpot mini submarine concept is rejected.

At best, mutuality and an open, democratic approach to the data that is vital to us all empowers rather than disempowers, informs rather than obfuscates. We need more data superheroes, fewer – preferably no – data villains. Perhaps it would help some people in policy and tech to think about whether Lex Luthor would do a gloating monologue to a kryptonite-disabled Superman about their new concept for gathering all the data of everyone everywhere, or if their genius strategy has already been bluntly refuted by a large explosion in a James Bond film.

Perhaps they could even dig deep into the nerdy fandom that many of them apparently partake of, and contemplate Jeff Goldblum’s famous line from Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Alistair Gentry is embedded Research Artist in Residence at the Open Data Institute, as part of its Data as Culture programme

Image credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 by Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden Joost J. Bakker

We call on the government to work with Google, Apple and Uber to publish more map data and support the UK’s emerging technologies

The Open Data Institute (ODI) has today published two papers looking at geospatial data, like maps, in the UK. The first is its response to the Geospatial Commission’s call for evidence towards the UK’s Geospatial Strategy which will be published in 2019. The second is a report: The UK’s geospatial data infrastructure: challenges and opportunities, produced for an innovation project exploring the challenges faced by the UK’s geospatial data users, and the opportunities to support the publishing and use of openly licensed geospatial data. Both papers were launched today at the ODI Summit 2018.

Why is geospatial data important?

Geospatial data describes places including the address of a building, the boundaries of cities and regions, and the extent of flood plains. Geospatial data helps people, communities and organisations make decisions in almost all aspects of life and across all sectors of our economy. It is a crucial element of our national infrastructure.

Geospatial data drives many of the services we use everyday, including helping food travel from farms to shops, helping parcels get to our houses, and apps that help us make journeys such as Apple Maps and Waze. Analysing geospatial data can help us understand and increase access to health facilities, schools or public green spaces.

The UK Government has estimated that maximising the value of such data could generate £6–11bn each year and has committed to making the geospatial data it holds more openly available – particularly that held by Ordnance Survey. However it is still hard to get hold of geospatial data from both the public and the private sectors. Government agencies charge fees that make it hard for startups to get started; rights over UK address data were privatised with the Royal Mail, and Google Maps recently increased its pricing by over 1000%. Making data from both the public and private sectors openly available and interoperable will mean more organisations can access data from different sources and combine it to build new services and technologies.

Technologies that could stall without open geospatial data

The report and response to the call for evidence both highlight how a number of technologies and sectors are heavily reliant on geospatial data from the public and private sectors. These include:

  • Autonomous and connected vehicles that use geospatial data in services such as in-car navigation and driver assistance systems like lane departure warnings, parking proximity, and cruise control.
  • Drones which rely on geospatial data for geofencing, for example to stop them flying over airports.
  • Transport services that use geospatial data to help people find their way to work, model traffic flows and manage highway resources.

The consultation response also shows how geospatial data has contributed hugely to the creation of new services which we now take for granted, including:

  • Commercial satellite imagery helping governments to plan for and respond to disasters.
  • Earth observation data helping human rights campaigners to track population flows or environmentalists to track deforestation in remote wildernesses.
  • Supply chain data data enabling the tracking and improvement of the production, processing and delivery of food from field to factory to supermarket to plate.

Commercial online giants now dominate control of the UK’s geospatial data

The UK’s geospatial data infrastructure: challenges and opportunities shows how commercial organisations now collect geospatial data quickly and at scale. This is made possible through technological advances in satellites and GPS-enabled devices. National mapping agencies and other public bodies need to respond to the increasingly large role played by commercial organisations as collectors, aggregators and stewards of geospatial data.

The response suggests that, to avoid commercial organisations hoarding national geospatial data, the Geospatial Commission should:

  • Work with public sector organisations to explore different business models – in particular those that represent alternatives to paying to use and share data.
  • Support broader debate around the respective roles of public, private and third sector organisations in maintaining and enhancing the UK’s geospatial data infrastructure.
  • Consult on whether public sector organisations should have powers to mandate access, use and sharing of data – in defined ways – held by large firms.

Jeni Tennison, CEO at the ODI said:

“Like other parts of our data infrastructure, we believe that geospatial data should be as open as possible while respecting privacy, national security and commercial confidentiality. In many cases, geospatial data can be open data for anyone to access, use and share.

“Our report shows that open geospatial data is necessary to enable innovation and growth in key sectors. To deliver this, the Government must engage and work with private companies, who are creating and collecting geospatial data as part of their businesses, to explore how that data can benefit everyone.

“The UK needs an effective geospatial strategy that looks beyond geospatial data holders in the public sector. Without it, the UK will fail to meet commitments to industries that rely on new technology, such as driverless cars and drone delivery.”

Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

The UK’s geospatial data infrastructure: challenges and opportunities (report)

Geospatial data is about places. It might be about a specific building, a river or other natural feature, or a broader location like a city or country.

This report summarises the desk research carried out as part of the ODI project to explore challenges that face the UK’s geospatial data infrastructure, and opportunities to support the publishing and use of openly licensed geospatial data.

Geospatial data’s importance for different sectors makes it essential that the UK has both a strong open geospatial data infrastructure and the capacity to use it to its full potential.

Credit: Photo by Anders Jildén on Unsplash