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West Midlands Digital Roadmap includes datastore plan


Mark Say Managing Editor


The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is planning to create a regional datastore and further develop the use of its Office for Data Analytics as part of its new Digital Roadmap plan.

Hand holding digital cogwheel

It has just published the five-year strategy, which also includes measures to use digital in reducing carbon emissions, improve public health, boost local connectivity and reduce digital exclusion.

The plan covers five core missions for 2021-26, including improving digital opportunities for everyone, sharing data to improve people’s lives, better connectivity for the region, using digital to transform the local economy and using digital public services to make the region greener and healthier.

Its section on sharing data points to the establishment of a West Midlands Datastore, along the lines that already in operation for London, as a basis for the wider sharing of data to deal with regional issues. It would involve a central registry for data distributed in different places, supported by shared standards and interoperable systems and platforms.

A key action planned for this year is to develop the proposal more clearly, with a focus on connecting regional datasets. The document says this could foster economic growth and help the region meet ‘net zero’ on carbon emissions.

The move would be accompanied by developing the Office for Data Analytics as a shared regional resource, and developing a regional set of data ethics and information assurance guidelines.

Efforts to ensure data security will involve drawing on the work of the Cyber Research Institute at the University of Wolverhampton to build a regional cyber security capability.

5G in health

The roadmap also focuses on using digital services to improve public health, with activities such as pilots of 5G technology for remote monitoring of vulnerable people and support of care home patients, a home endoscopy service and the use of connected ambulances. There will also be an effort to improve collaboration between public and private sectors in healthcare innovation through the Health and Wellbeing Innovation Network at the University of Warwick and the Birmingham Health Innovation Campus.

The plan to use digital to improve sustainability includes the creation of a regional transport co-ordination centre, a Midlands Future Mobility programme, and further work on 5G enabled transport services.

Other planned initiatives including working with local authorities and the third sector on a digital inclusion coalition to get more internet non-users online, and sharing best practice on issues such as hardware loans and voucher schemes, as well as providing adult community learning offers to improve digital literacy.

On a broad front, the plan outlines five missions to digitise the region, including becoming the UK’s best digitally connected region and increasing access to digital opportunities by tackling digital exclusion.

It is intended to build on the progress of the region’s 5G testbed and its innovation in transport, and make the most unique regional opportunities like HS2, the Commonwealth Games, and Coventry City of Culture.

It has been developed over the past six months and approved by the WMCA Board.

Ambitious plan

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “This roadmap sets out an ambitious plan for the West Midlands – to become a technologically advanced, forward looking digital economy, where everybody has access to the internet and data is used to improve our public services. Imbedding the latest technology into our economy will also help us reach net zero, where innovation still has a huge role to play in reducing the burden on us to change the way we live our lives.

“Growth has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, but despite the adversity, there is also opportunity. The pandemic has accelerated the switch to digital and highlighted the need for a better-connected economy.”

Image from iStock, Natalie Mis

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