The ODI and Nesta recently released a report on the Open Data Challenge Series (ODCS) programme, providing new evidence that open data supports innovation, creating social and economic impact. The evidence predicted that an 18-month, £1.2 million programme could generate a 5 to 10-times return on investment in three years.
A fascinating element of this is that the programme was centered around social impact. We’d have been delighted with the analysis if this had been for a pure economic programme, but to see this for something socially-based raises a number of interesting points. Undertaken by PwC, the report predicts a £5.3 million to £10.8 million (GVA) return, that the winning businesses will create 75 to 141 jobs, and have the potential to generate further, significant social and environmental impacts.
This is resonant with something we all want to see: tangible, sustainable businesses that don’t see “social” as something extrinsic, like “CSR v the economy”, but something fundamental to our future. We have gone to considerable lengths at the ODI to curate start-ups and organisations who see the short- and long-term value of open innovation.
Launched in 2013 to generate new and sustainable solutions to key social challenges, the ODCS challenges were based around seven themes: crime and justice, education, energy and environment, housing, food, heritage and culture, and jobs. The approach convened start-ups, SMEs and individuals to define the challenge with programme leaders, then develop solutions using open data from the public and private sectors.
Participants were also given access to resources, such as a bespoke user insight report and data analysis for each challenge. They benefitted from a programme with a clear, structured process and a mentoring environment with fantastic ideas and people. Each challenge had three finalists, each winning £5,000, and one winner securing up to £50,000 to develop their business.
Education winner Skills Route (www.skillsroute.com) is a personalised service to help young people view the grades they could achieve on courses at local schools or colleges, and weigh up their higher education and career options. A new app for house hunters, Movemaker (www.movemakerapp.co.uk), helps residents living in social housing swap their properties, and will be launched to the market at the end of November 2015. Culture Everywhere (cultureeverywhere.com) helps organisations deliver better social outcomes through cultural activities, by making it quick and easy for them to develop fundable projects.
The programme also met challenges that we see many start-ups face. Data sources were often unreliable: they were out of date, missing metadata, lacking clear licences, inconsistent in their data model, format and content across different points in time or geography. Added to this, data publishers often don’t consider the user’s innovative potential when they release it: formats can be overly “academic” and APIs built by institutions don’t necessarily function well enough for modern day apps - our innovators experienced unreliable servers, a lack of guaranteed service and frequently missing documentation.
With so many confusing technical terms, a critical starting point is to understand the data spectrum. This will support a new generation of start-ups and enable greater innovation to benefit your users, customers, colleagues, and citizens.
Programmes like the ODCS help improve data literacy for everyone involved: the 145 teams who entered the challenges had varied skill sets and experience, but left with a common understanding of how social challenges could be responded to, with a shared passion for the power of open innovation.
The research continues to build on the fact that data is the fuel for open innovation, that it is changing the way we address social, economic and environmental issues, and that it has the potential to bring about financial success across sectors. We are looking forward to building on the success of these first seven programmes and are seeking new sector-based collaborations for 2016.
(To read the full PwC report, go to http://opendatachallenges.org/resources)