Launched in 2010, the London Datastore is a data-portal pioneer – providing a platform where anyone can access public data relating to London. Its second iteration – which greatly improved its design and functionality – in 2015, was so good it won an ODI award in the open data publishing category.
As a model for access to data, portals have proven their usefulness. Whether they are national, local or regional, thematic or sector-focused, they have been empowering people, increasing transparency, and enabling innovation. Many of them, however, were set up without sustainability in mind, and are now sitting unloved and underused.
Data discovery evolution
And just like the history of the web saw modes of discovery evolve from the curatorial nature of portals to a mix of modes including search, social and personalised recommendations, we should expect the discovery of data to evolve from a portal model to something else entirely.
The ability to search for dataset, for example, is quickly shifting from the realm of academic research to live products. Portals also need to evolve with technology – the past 10 years have seen a rise in APIs, knowledge graphs and the need for trustworthy data governance. Giving access to static datasets isn’t always the best approach, and there are now many more ways of providing access to data.
The future shape and scope of the London Datastore
The range of data access models now available makes it a particularly exciting time to embark on a project to help define the future shape and scope of the London Datastore. It is a challenging exercise: the platform needs to respond to the needs of its users, present and future, and follow an ambitious strategy to make it fit for purpose for the years to come.
To build on its successful foundations, built by the datastore team over the past nine years, the platform now needs to broaden in scope: shifting from its focus on open data, to facilitating access to data across the whole data spectrum. And it should follow an approach that is quintessentially of and for London, while learning from the approach taken by other open cities.
With that in mind, we are excited to build upon the work we conducted in close collaboration with the Greater London Authority and the Royal Borough of Greenwich to create one of the first ever data trust pilots, with a focus on sensor data in the urban environment.
A focus on user needs
Through this discovery project, we aim to find out: about London Datastore users and their needs; about the data, governance and technology that is already being used; and what the requirements of the product may be. And this is where we need your help.
We know that the London Datastore has many different types of users – and the list is likely to evolve in the future as new ways of using data emerge: from citizens gleaning insights from data about their city; to companies downloading open data as they create innovative services; to policy analysts connecting visualisation dashboards to the datastore’s API.
Data users represent a wealth of ideas we would love to hear about, and issues we must make sure we surface through our research. Publishers and partners of the datastore – who use it as a platform to give access to data – are also a key user group, and we will want to build on the kinds of insights gleaned in our earlier research.