THE BLOG

Open Up Your Data to Open Up Our Cities

13/05/2016 11:29 | Updated 13 May 2016

Every day, millions of people across the world turn to technology to help them plan a journey - whether they need to figure out the quickest way to get to a meeting, find out how to get to a city's best restaurant, or change their routine to explore a new area of the city. We often take for granted the ease with which we can navigate around a city, when not so long ago, it would have taken us significantly longer to find our way.

The availability of real-time and static data is absolutely key to helping create the navigation tools we all take for granted, and not every city in the world is quite as fortunate as we are in London.

The Future Spaces Foundation recently launched our Vital Cities: Transport Systems Scorecard, an interactive data hub that awards connectivity ratings to 12 cities across the world. The research looks at key factors that make cities thrive - for example breathability, bike and foot networks, use of data and apps - and ranks each city based on its performance across more than 30 individual measures.

As part of this project, we set out to understand how data can contribute to the creation of a more 'vital' city that is economically and environmentally sustainable, and also offers residents easy access to employment, public services and leisure facilities. The findings show that London is streets ahead of many of its global counterparts when it comes to capitalising on the potential of data, providing open access to real-time and static transport information that developers can use to create navigation apps and programs.

The city's open data policy has set the standard for other cities across the world, delivering significant benefits to residents, tourists and entrepreneurs alike. Transport for London estimates that the annual value of the time saved by tourists, commuters and residents through the use of its data could amount to £116 million . The policy has also nurtured a culture of innovation and entrepreneurialism, as more than 460 apps are powered by TFL data and 8,200 developers have registered to access the data .

As a result of these findings, we are calling on governments all over the world to implement effective open data policies that encourage everyone - from web and app developers to residents and tourists - to make use of the wealth of data available. The Future Spaces Foundation believes that making data more readily available improves travel experiences for everyone, whether they are a commuter, a tourist or a resident exploring everything a city has to offer. Open data policies can also foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurialism, creating jobs and driving growth, all essential ingredients to creating a 'vital' city.

When you drill down into the detail, London is leading the charge among many other global cities, including New York, Beijing and Hong Kong, due to the availability of free live transit feeds across all transport modes, which has helped facilitate the creation of multi-modal apps. Dubai, Houston and Kuala Lumpur were marked down for the lack of availability of data. Dubai only recently drafted an open data law that aims to increase sharing of data between government departments and with the private sector, and Kuala Lumpur has failed to provide an open live transit data system to its citizens and potential developers altogether, despite appearing to have an open data policy.

Although London has made massive strides with its open data policy in recent years, the job certainly isn't finished. In fact, Singapore is leading the way when it comes to converting data into the most user friendly and informative travel apps. Our research found that there is still room for developers in London and elsewhere in the world to improve the services they offer by taking their lead from Singapore's Land Transport Authority, which provides its own web and mobile-based route-planning tool and app. The app includes additional features not yet available to Londoners, such as information about standing and seating room on public transport, as well as disabled access and the availability of parking spaces close to the passenger's chosen destination.

Our belief is that connected cities, those with well-networked, efficient and sustainable transport systems, enhance the ability of people and enterprises to interact, exchange and innovate. Ultimately our goal is to make cities places in which people can thrive. Technology and data have offered us a real opportunity to do this, and it's critical that we embrace these benefits. Unfortunately it seems that many cities are falling at the first hurdle - failing to fully implement a policy that allows for the free flow of data between businesses and individuals.

For further information about the Future Spaces Foundation, please visit www.futurespacesfoundation.org.

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