The Open Data Institute and Sport England are working together to improve and open up information about physical activity and sporting opportunities across England.

Much of the information about activities – from which tennis courts can be booked to which dance classes are available – is hidden away in old-fashioned websites, social media groups, PDFs or printed flyers. Over the next year, the ODI will collaborate with the sports sector to help providers produce openly available data on what, where and when physical activity sessions are happening. This data, which won’t include any personal information, will be open for anyone to access, use and share – via Providers will be helped to publish their data in a consistent format that’s easy to create and use, thanks to a new set of standards being co-developed with the sector.

At any one time, around 28% of people in England are inactive. They face many emotional and practical barriers – one being a lack of information on what's available to them. The new collaboration will address this and encourage the development of new physical activity products and services, including apps, by unlocking the ‘fuel’ that powers them: high-quality, comprehensive data on where and when there are opportunities to be active.

Jeni Tennison, CEO at the ODI, said:

We all use apps and digital services to make the most of our downtime: to find a good local restaurant, book cinema tickets, or research our next holiday. But it can be far more difficult to identify ways of getting more active. One reason is a lack of data to power online services, like those we’ve come to expect for other activities. Over the coming months the ODI, Sport England and the physical activity community will come together to create new ways to find activities – engaging large and small organisations to publish their data for the first time.

Enabling new sport products and services

Innovators, developers and startups will be encouraged to develop products and services to get people active, using physical activity data. Open data will make it easier to build solutions that target people who do little or no physical activity and could benefit most from better services.

Many who hold physical activity data like the idea of making it open but lack the tools and guidance to do so. Enhancing data literacy in the sector is therefore a priority, and the ODI will help to make publishing physical activity data as easy as possible for providers.

Today’s announcement marks the beginning of a longer-term cultural change for the physical activity sector in how it uses data to keep pace with the digital expectations of customers, supporting them to find relevant and high-quality information on their smartphones. This in turn helps providers market their services more effectively and grow their customer base. The work will build on existing best practice and harness the momentum created by grassroots data movements in the sport sector.

Lisa O’Keefe, Director of Insight at Sport England, who will announce the collaboration today, said:

With opportunities to go swimming described and advertised in more than 6,000 different ways, you can be left feeling it's easier to break the enigma code than navigate a pool timetable. But it doesn't have to be that way and the sports sector is ready and willing to change that. We want to make it as easy to book a badminton court as it is a hotel room, and open data is an essential part of that. We're thrilled to be joining forces with the ODI to turn our ambition for convenient, immediate and accessible information about local sporting opportunities into a reality.

If you’d like to get more involved in the work of this new collaboration, please enter your details here.