Devolution ‘provides smart city opportunity’

Elected mayors should be forced to set up an office of data analytics to help create smart cities, according to a leading think tank.

A report by Policy Exchange said that cities are not currently making the most of the mountains of data they are sitting on.

If used effectively, this information could help improve public services, optimise transport routes, and support business growth.

The report was written by Eddie Copeland, who recently left Policy Exchange to join innovation charity Nesta.

Copeland said: “Data will be fundamental to the success of city devolution and smarter cities. Yet most cities lack the ability to join up, analyse and act upon the vast quantities of data they already have. By establishing an office of data analytics, cities will also improve the quality and reliability of their open data.”

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New York has already set up its own data office, employing a small team to collect information.

In the UK, the report said, such an office could collect and collate information from councils, emergency services, voluntary organisations, mobile phone networks and payment systems.

Copeland said: “Devolution provides city mayors with a great opportunity to break down the data silos that exist between different local authorities and public sector bodies.  With 80% of Brits residing in urban areas and the population of our cities ever increasing, it is vital that our cities become smarter to cope with growing pressures on public services, transport and housing.”

Sean Weir, director of smart & M2M at supplier Arqiva, which sponsored the report, said: “It is only by rolling out large scale projects to create smart cities that we will truly be able to make a difference to the lives of local citizens.

“Many initiatives we see are only small pilots or lab-based experiments which gain little awareness and progress no further than the initial trial stage.”

Colin Marrs

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