Good use of data across the economy and society in the UK is crucial as we build back better after the Covid-19 pandemic, and to chart our post-EU exit future. When organisations come together to share and manage data, they can create value far beyond what would be available to the individual partners.

Essential for this is a data ecosystem where data is as open as possible, which may be shared or closed, while minimising risks and harms. This includes data flowing across sectors and domains, building intelligence and analysis of the problems and stimulating innovative solutions for the benefit of industry and society. These powerful data ecosystems can be harnessed to better understand and solve challenges such as improving public health, tackling the climate emergency, and improving consumer well being.

Smart Data​ is the secure sharing of customer data with authorised third-party providers, upon the customer’s request. These providers then use this data to provide innovative services for the consumer or business user, such as automatic switching or better account management.

The Smart Data Working Group was announced in the government report Next steps for Smart Data, to progress Smart Data initiatives, reduce duplication and maximise the combined potential of these initiatives. It is chaired by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), with representatives from government and regulators, and has four themes that have been informing the design of cross-sector coordination and collaboration:

  • Sectors working together – bringing together all bodies leading sectoral delivery of Smart Data with industry and government to enable coordination.
  • Develop the Smart Data ecosystem – sharing information and drawing on shared expertise to tackle common challenges and support cross-sector innovation.
  • Enable interoperability – to address barriers to competition and realise Smart Data benefits for consumers and businesses.
  • Inform the ongoing development of the Smart Data framework – ensuring the ecosystem remains responsive to changing user attitudes and technological developments will be important. Pooling research and findings to develop a cross-sector picture of adoption, attitudes and capabilities will provide an opportunity to identify and consider emerging opportunities and challenges.

As an observer to the Smart Data working group, the Open Data Institute (ODI) has been conducting research into innovation in Smart Data, and data innovation more broadly,  to learn lessons from previous work in Smart Data and related fields. This has been done through extensive desk research, expert interviews and industry roundtables with representatives from government, regulators, charities and academia as well as small and medium-sized enterprises and large corporates across finance, telecoms and energy.

These findings will have helped inform the development of the Smart Data Innovation Guidebook and compile these findings into insights, actionable recommendations, relevant tools, and a broad road map to help the implementation of Smart Data in practice.

The Smart Data Innovation Guidebook ⧉ can be useful for any individual or organisation involved in developing or participating in Smart Data initiatives. However, the primary audiences are regulators and government entities, large data providers, and industry bodies and trade associations. These audiences have slightly different approaches across them but ultimately can benefit from this tool in the following ways:

  • Learn more about the data infrastructure that can be built and maintained, whether that's data assets, technologies or standards, to help boost Smart Data innovation in a particular organisation or sector.
  • Tap into existing knowledge of key activities to promote the development of Smart Data initiatives, whether the ecosystem is being built, grown, or is ready to evolve further. Understand where a sector is along the smart data journey, and the types of activities to be expected from government or regulators, as well as how different roles within a sector may evolve.
  • Leverage the Innovation Programme Inventory as a one-stop repository of innovation programme case studies, including deep dives into particularly successful ones, to learn from what has worked and what hasn't in the innovation initiatives that are already live or have ended.

This is the ‘alpha’ release of the Smart Data Innovation Guidebook ⧉, so we are still very keen to collect feedback on this tool from organisations involved in data access initiatives.

Let us know your thoughts by contacting us at [email protected].

Lastly, we would like to give a special thanks to the Smart Data team at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and our colleagues at Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.