A new approach to transport data could offer the UK multiple benefits, says a new transport data strategy that sets out Department of Transport's (DfT) thinking on how it will work with and support the sector to harness the benefits of data.
Through a range of research and engagement, the strategy (published last week) sets out targeted interventions to support what it calls a “healthy” transport data ecosystem, with the aim of to helping grow and level up the economy, reduce environmental impacts and improve transport for users.
That should include, says DfT, better interoperable systems, such as integrated energy systems for electric vehicle charging enabling low emission travel, and a better understanding of the impact of environment policies and transport behaviour.
It also points to another potential big win in the raising of productivity and empowerment of local authorities to utilise their data more efficiently.
The department says it will start working with the transport sector to improve the discoverability, quality and accessibility of transport data, and commits to making targeted interventions like delivering a new transport data catalogue, Find Transport Data, to make it easier to find the data needed for innovation.
To achieve all this the strategy offers five themes, inviting stakeholders to look at transport data through the lenses of:
- data sharing, discoverability and access;
- data standards and quality;
- skills, culture and leadership;
- user needs and communication;
- and governance, protection and ethics.
These are by no means the ‘silver bullet’ to solving the barriers of sharing transport related data, says the document, but they represent an important step in addressing the data issues faced within the transport sector.
For DfT all this is, in turn, said to be all about achieving “innovation through data” – but it will not be an overnight job as a number of “well researched” obstacles to data sharing in the sector have to be tackled. These include a lack of leadership that does not prioritise value sharing and the need for a clear sense of purpose as to why data is being shared.
To move forward, argues DfT: “We need the engagement and support of a wide range of partners and stakeholders to make this work, and to keep iterating as technology and transport changes”.
That needs to be accompanied, it suggests, by a consistent approach to transport data that would see that:
- data should be open by default and using open standards;
- be protected and appropriately governed, maintaining public trust, while not using security and privacy as blockers to innovation where privacy protecting solutions can be found;
- data and algorithms should be used ethically;
- data generated through public investment should be used for public benefit;
- data from new mobility services should be shared where appropriate;
- the market is tested before commissioning new services and solutions;
- and that where these principles are not met and the case for intervention can be made, government will consider the use of regulation or legislation.
Commenting on the new approach, Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper said: “There is much more the transport sector could do and learn from other industries, as how we shop, bank and access entertainment has been transformed by data and digital connectivity, which has helped to provide personalised services and ease of use, whilst lowering costs.
“Moving forward, I want the department and the transport sector to work together to use all the tools at our collective disposal to ensure that data plays a key role in the improvement of transport."