Socitm conference: councils must insist on open data for smart cities wins

Written by Jim Dunton on 22 April 2016 in News

Local authorities must demand open access to data generated via service contracts if they are to maximise the potential benefits of the smart cities agenda, the Socitm spring conference heard.

A session at the 21 April event heard that some authorities struggled to get data on some “smart” services run for them by private-sector providers, hampering their ability to take a "big picture" view of local services.

Peter Wheeler, an account manager at global software firm Red Hat, said councils faced “a huge battle” to get data they required for smart-cities initiatives from the independent software vendors responsible for some existing departmental systems. 

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Wheeler said a simple approach for the future would be to insist upon access to all data in new  procurement agreements.

“At the outset there is a need to mandate openness,” he said.

“It will happen over time and as vendors start to realise that it is going to be mandated, they have to be prepared to accept that openness is the way forward.”

However, Wheeler also warned that the potential to collect and collate a "goldmine" of data in a host of new ways to improve services from transport to waste-collection could needlessly drain council resources. 

“There is no point in having the data unless ultimately you have a use for it,” he said. 

“The danger is that  the focus simply becomes data acquisition without extracting anything of value from it, at which point it does become a pointless exercise.”

The conference was organised by Public Technology’s parent company Dods.

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