TfL open data ‘adds £130 million to London economy’

Deloitte report highlights economic returns from Transport for London’s release of data in open format

Transport for London’s (TfL) widespread provision of open data is boosting the city’s economy by up to £130 million a year, according a research report from global business consultancy Deloitte.

Drawing of bike, taxi, train, busIt says that the ability of developers to use the organisation’s data on factors such as timetables, service status and disruption information is creating the value by making things easier for travellers, generating revenue for the developers and creating new jobs in the capital.

TfL has been making data freely available in open format for almost 10 years, providing more than 80 feeds with about 75% of the data being available through APIs. It has also worked with a range of professional and amateur developers, including start-ups and global companies, to deliver new products.

Among the companies with which it has worked are Waze, Twitter, Google, Apple, Citymapper, Bus Checker, Bus Times and Mapway, and more than 13,000 developers are registered to use the data.

This has led to the provision of more than 600 apps based on its open data feeds, used by 42% of Londoners.

Time savings

The report highlights the time saved for passengers from the apps and real time information, and estimates the resulting financial savings at £70-90 million over a year. This is accompanied by an extra £20 million – described as a conservative estimate – from customers using TfL and other services more regularly and better planning their journeys.

Commercial app and software developers are using the data to generate revenues, a ‘gross value add’ that amounts to trickles down the supply chain and generates £12-15 million a year for London’s economy. The report says that 230 jobs have been created in the supply chain and wider economy through the policy.

In addition, TfL receives back a significant amount of data that it does not collect itself, such as crowdsourced traffic information. This helps it to build a better understanding of journeys in London and improve its operations.

Deloitte says it is possible for TfL to release more open data – pointing to the possibility of data on road traffic – and has opportunities in commercialising its expertise, developing new customer services and using the data for insights.

Full power

London’s chief digital officer, Theo Blackwell, said: “This research shows the full power of open data and how it can be embraced to improve our city to meet the needs of Londoners. The mayor and I will set out a vision to put all forms of technological innovation at the heart of making our capital a better place to live, work and visit.

“I am looking forward to working with Transport for London and our other public services so that London is at the forefront of making the best use of data.”

Publication of the report prompted Jeni Tennison, chief executive officer of the Open Data Institute, to suggest that TfL’s approach could be replicated to repeat the benefits elsewhere.

“It’s been estimated that by using open data effectively, 629 million hours of unnecessary waiting time could be saved on the EU’s roads and energy consumption could be reduced by 16%,” she said. “It's great to see detailed in today’s report how, by investing in the provision of real time open data, TfL has been able to save people time, support innovation across the UK, and provide a wider range of services than they could on their own.”

Image from report

UKAuthority is staging an event, Data4Good, on how the public sector can harness its data for the public good. Taking place in London on Tuesday 24 October, it will focus on how the sector uses its data to provide better services for citizens. More information and registration details can be found here.