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Data 2020: Infrastructure to support our economies and societies

Infrastructure to support our economies and societies is one of the key areas we've identified in our Data 2020 landscape review to help organisations understand hot topics in the world of data in 2020 – from digital competition to data rights

Data is a new form of infrastructure that underpins every sector of our society and economy, but it is often broken and neglected. If data cannot be accessed, used and shared in a trustworthy and consistent way, then many essential services could be under threat. Open data is the foundation of this data infrastructure.

Having a strong data infrastructure will only become more vital as our populations grow and our economies and societies become ever-more reliant on getting value from data to meet people’s needs.

For example, weather data is being used by everyone from farmers to the transport industry to individual citizens, and mapping data is created and shared by the public sector and then built on by diverse organisations, from Wheelmap to Google. Data is infrastructure for our communities and nations and across each and every sector globally.

In 2014, Henri Verdier, France’s Chief Data Officer, said ‘Data is currently at the centre of both public action and economic activity and it must be seen as an essential infrastructure to the functioning of the economy, just as the transport and telecommunications networks. The Government must be the catalyst, encouraging the rest of society.’

Good infrastructure should be simply there when we need it, but – at the moment – too much of our data infrastructure is unreliable, inaccessible or only available if you can pay for access. Data innovators struggle to get hold of data and to work out how they can best use it, while individuals do not feel that they are in control of data about them. Data infrastructure should be as easy to use as our road networks.

Hot topics

  • Creating digital twins and data infrastructure that provide real-time pictures and predictive models
  • Identifying high-value datasets that should be publicly funded open data
  • Building stronger data infrastructure within specific sectors, for example engineering, physical activity and agriculture
  • Incentivising the private sector to contribute to data infrastructure
  • Designing data institutions to steward our data infrastructure

Useful links and resources

  • Open Data Institute: Principals for strengthening our data infrastructure
  • Open Data Institute: Open standards for data guidebook
  • Etalab: Data as an essential infrastructure
  • National Audit Office: Challenges in using data across government
  • National Infrastructure Commission: Data for the public good
  • Open Data for Development: Data infrastructure

This is not an exhaustive list of resources. If you provide tools or resources in this topic, please let us know by emailing [email protected]

Organisations working in this area

  • Etalab
  • Open Data Institute
  • National Audit Office
  • National Infrastructure Commission

This is not an exhaustive list of all organisations working in this area. If your organisation is working on this topic and you'd like to be included in this list, please let us know via [email protected]

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