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Transport Systems Catapult data sharing report (case study)

Wed Dec 18, 2019
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Find out about the work we did with the Transport Systems Catapult to help the government incentivise the transport industry to share data

In 2017, the ODI and Deloitte were commissioned by the Transport Systems Catapult to help discover what the government should do to help incentivise the transport industry to overcome barriers to sharing data, and explain how critical this is to the future of transport in the UK

Summary of the project

In 2017, the ODI and Deloitte were commissioned by the Transport Systems Catapult, via a tender process, to produce a briefing paper exploring the current barriers within the UK transport sector to publishing, sharing and accessing data. The aim was to set out what the government should do to help incentivise the transport industry to overcome these barriers and share data, and explain how critical this is to the future of transport in the UK.

This project aligns with one of the three ‘levers’ articulated in the ODI Strategy – sector programmes – in which we work with organisations to tackle a social or economic problem with data and an open approach. The first step for any such programme is motivating organisations within the sector to see the benefits of sharing and opening data to meet their collective goals.

At the ODI, we believe that shared and open data can enable innovation, create more efficient and effective services and products, and fuel productivity. We believe we must make data as open as possible while protecting people’s privacy, commercial confidentiality and national security.

This vision maps neatly to the challenges in the UK’s transport sector, where data is often still siloed and ‘hoarded’, and passengers rely on various dispersed and discrete data sources to plan and book journeys. Many areas of the UK are not fully exploiting data sharing to streamline journeys (passengers and freight) across cities and regions. This is despite there being clear examples of the benefits of sharing or opening data, where it is recognised that data is infrastructure, and this is exploited to enable efficient and effective services. For example, Transport for London’s open data initiative demonstrates clearly how data can boost the local economy as well as improve travel – with open-data-powered apps enabling people to plan journeys across bus, train, tube and boat routes in real time.

While many parts of the transport industry appreciate the benefits of sharing data, the understandable commercial concerns about cost, data protection and ‘going first’ create a barrier, with industry recognising the need for in-sector agreement and an integrated ‘push’.

The challenge was therefore to help the UK government respond to this need, and to incentivise data sharing while protecting commercial interests. The report has informed the development of the Department for Transport’s (DfT’s) new data strategy, which ODI Leeds is contributing to.

Key facts and figures

  • The ODI team submitted a joint proposal with Deloitte in response to a Transport Systems Catapult tender. We were awarded the contract in early 2017.
  • The challenge was to provide research and evidence to the UK government to help it incentivise data sharing in the transport sector while protecting commercial interests.
  • The project aligns with one of the ODI’s ‘levers’ – sector programmes – where we work with coordinating organisations to tackle a social or economic problem with data and an open approach.
  • The project report, The case for government involvement to incentivise data sharing in the UK intelligent mobility sector, was published in March 2017
  • The report aimed to address the fact that many areas of the UK are not fully exploiting data sharing to streamline journeys (passengers and freight) across cities and regions.
  • In the report, we made recommendations to the UK government regarding supporting secure data access; reducing the costs of data sharing; and shifting cultures towards sharing and openness.
  • The report has informed the development of the DfT’s new data strategy, which ODI Leeds is contributing to.

What was the ODI’s role / what is the story / impact?

The ODI team submitted a joint bid with Deloitte in response to a Transport Systems Catapult tender. We were the data specialists, and Deloitte focused primarily on the economic elements.

The project had two parts: econometrics and identifying stakeholders. Firstly we had to establish what value data sharing in the transport sector would add to the economy. Then we compiled a list of stakeholders, from across different sectors and from across different modes of transport (air, sea, road, rail). We identified contacts in each stakeholder group and interviewed them about the issues identified.

As a team, we aggregated the findings and worked together to produce the recommendations and actions for government. We grouped the recommendations into three categories:

  • Support secure and safe data access in a way that respects privacy
  • Help reduce the costs of sharing and provide guidance on how to share and make open
  • Lead by example to shift cultures towards sharing and openness

The recommendations were based on the key themes and findings from the research and interviews, combined with evidence of best-practice interventions, with a focus on the transport data infrastructure required to support those interventions.

We highlighted the points of intervention to make change happen, and make it sustainable. These were based on the points of intervention used successfully in other sectors, in particular in the work we had done in open banking and the finance sector.

Alongside the research, we developed a communications strategy to target government and senior politicians and decision-makers. Our desk-based and face-to-face research backed up the Transport Systems Catapult hypothesis that the transport sector wants to share more data, but it needs everyone to do it together. Our aim was to show that this presents an opportunity for government to intervene effectively. We wanted to demonstrate that it can take action to push data sharing, and can take a coordinated approach to addressing concerns around competition and privacy.

In March 2017, we published the report: The case for government involvement to incentivise data sharing in the UK intelligent mobility sector. We also published two blog posts: one on whether data infrastructure can help fix travel woes in the north of England, and one on why the UK government must support data sharing and open data in transport. We ran a small event with Deloitte to launch the report, held a breakfast briefing session with target stakeholders, and planned one-to-one meetings with government special advisors, scientific advisors, the DfT policy team, and senior civil servants from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Engagement plans also included meeting with the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles; the Transport Select Committee; and the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee.

The impact wasn’t immediate, but has had the required effect of opening and enabling discussions about change in the sector. While the report didn’t lead to the immediate change in government intervention in the sector, it did gain attention by presenting compelling evidence to propel next steps. It has informed the development of the DfT’s new data strategy, which ODI Leeds is contributing to.

The process of taking part in the project also strengthened our relationships with organisations we want to influence. Our Theory of Change recognises that to scale our impact we need to influence organisations like regulators, advocates and advisors, who then influence others. This project built our network in the transport sector and influenced the way our delivery partner, Deloitte, thinks and what it says to its clients.

What was challenging?

Knowing that there wouldn’t be immediate results was a challenge, as the team knew it would be difficult to measure impact immediately. To achieve change, we need to advocate for it with policymakers. The report helps ensure that the government is equipped with the evidence needed to adopt the changes we advocate for.

It was a challenge to agree the broad areas for recommendations, considering both the more traditional business-focused views and the open and shared data perspectives. It worked well to have both voices, as it could have been skewed too far either way without the ‘critical voice’ of each team helping to create a balanced view. While this was challenging, it was useful and necessary.

We quickly discovered that at the ODI, we have different working practices and approaches to those at Deloitte. It was the first time we’d worked with Deloitte. For example, they didn’t use Google Docs, which is a key part of the real-time, collaborative working practice at the ODI. We had one of our team embedded at Deloitte for three days a week to help share working practices and ensure good communication and engagement.

Based on the challenges in this project, for future projects, we should aim to establish and agree working practices upfront when working with partners, to save time and reduce disruption.

What went well/lessons for similar projects

Produce findings in a format that the intended audience wants. A glossy PDF report was what this audience (government and the transport sector) needed and expected. It wouldn’t have worked as well if we had used less formal mechanisms to disseminate the information, for example only blog posts or illustrations. A more formal approach was needed for this audience.

Our connections in government and in the data community meant the ODI team were well placed to carry out this project. It also helped that Deloitte had good relationships and connections in the transport community, both at operational and government levels. We had not previously worked with the DfT, and therefore the project was a great opportunity to help build that relationship. Being able to demonstrate our expertise and build trust has meant we now have a good connections within the department: we have a representative on the bus open data board at DfT, and on the data strategy advisory board.

The perspective of our partner organisation changed as a result of the work. The Deloitte perspective at the start was that it was unlikely that commercial organisations would be willing to share data. Through working with us, they realised that commercial organisations should and would do this. Furthermore, some of the Deloitte team that we worked with became genuine advocates of shared and open data. They quickly saw the difference between open and shared data, and the specific value at different points on The Data Spectrum. Deloitte has subsequently carried out more work in the transport sector, and we can see the team reinforcing our messages around open and shared data. For example, the Deloitte report Open banking: switch or stick?, references our work in open banking and, in its written submission to the Digital Government report, Deloitte stated that the reluctance to share personal data ‘limits the UK’s ability to move quickly on cross-cutting digital transformation…’.

Based on our learning from this project, for future projects, we should aim to work with partners that will help us to expand our connections to other sectors, and continue to take into account the audience for the material we produce.

What have we learned (how to create impact/ how to engage effectively etc)

Look at whether we can factor advocacy into contracts in a more structured way. For this project, there was no funding for advocacy after the project ended. It could have been useful to invest in advocacy more broadly, and we may have been able to have more impact this way.

Commit time to developing communications strategies. A significant amount of time was built into the project plan for work on the communications strategy, and we started working on it early on in the project. It ended up being one of the most thorough strategies we’ve developed at the ODI, especially in terms of the deep-dive into the different stakeholder groups, and it is being used as a template for future projects.