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ODI plans pilots to explore data trusts


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Open Data Institute (ODI) has announced two pilot projects to examine how a data trust could increase access to data while retaining trust.

They will be aimed at establishing whether the new approach - where a legal structure provides independent third party stewardship of data - is useful in managing and safeguarding data. It could apply to data about cities, the environment, biodiversity and transport.

One of the pilots will be run in conjunction with the Government’s Office for Artificial Intelligence and focus on the development of two data trusts, the details of which are not yet decided.

The other will involve working with the mayor of London and Greenwich Council to prototype a trust, focusing on real time data from the internet of things. It will investigate how it could be shared with innovators in the technology sector to create solutions to city challenges.

City Hall is working with the ODI on data trusts as part of its Smarter London Together Roadmap to support the develop of AI in public services and protect 'privacy by design' for Londoners.

The ODI said the pilots are the first of their kind in the UK, and it will work in the open and with other organisations and experts from around the world to explore the model.

Following the pilot projects, it will make proposals for the use of data trusts in future.


It defines a data trust as “a legal structure that provides independent third party stewardship of data”. This can provide benefits to a group of organisations or people, which might include enabling them to create new businesses, helping research a medical disease, or empowering a community of workers, consumers or citizens.

Theo Blackwell, London’s chief digital officer, said: “As a city we need to explore new methods of providing assurance when data is shared. Using data trusts can help address some of our city’s most pressing challenges, while also keeping personal information safe and secure for all Londoners.”

Future data trusts could take advantage of the Urban Sharing Platform that the mayor and the Royal Borough of Greenwich are developing together in their Sharing Cities programme. The platform enables the collection and sharing of live data from the city on issues such as energy use, parking space occupancy and weather.

Jeni Tennison, chief executive officer at the Open Data Institute, said: “While we see many benefits from the use of data, such as being able to find local exercise classes using data from leisure centres thanks to OpenActive, or plan a train journey quickly and easily with an app using route and timetable data, there has also been misuse and harm, as we saw in the case of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

“Data trusts are a potential new way to help realise the benefits while preventing the harm. We're keen to explore them to find out where they might be useful.”

Exploring concept

The ODI will also create an independent advisory group of people and organisations exploring the concept of data trusts around the world, and will provide initial findings from both the advisory group and the pilot projects in early 2019.

The pilots are part of a wider innovation programme by the ODI looking at ways to increase access to data while retaining trust.

Image by justgrimes, CC BY-SA 2.0 through flickr

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