The UK is to pilot what it claims will be the world’s first "data trust" programme aimed at tackling global issues such as illegal wildlife poaching and food waste.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has announced an initial investment of £700,000, with plans to provide up to £30 million over the long term, to support the use of "tech for social good".
The initial funding will help organisations such as conservation group Wildlabs Tech Hub and waste reduction charity WRAP design the frameworks required to exchange data between organisations in a safe, fair and ethical way.
To open the programme, the Government’s Office of Artificial Intelligence will work with the Open Data Institute on how the exchange of data between organisations through trusts can help tackle global issues.
The new plans include a partnership between leading conservation charities, Wildlabs Tech Hub and technology experts to reduce the level of illegal trade of wildlife by sharing image data to assist border control officers around the world in identifying illegal animal products from their smartphones.
In addition, audio data could be used to train algorithms to detect gunshots or the underwater sound of illegal fishing vessels coming into protected areas then real-time alerts will be pinged to rangers.
Meanwhile, WRAP will be working with food and drink businesses to track and measure food waste to develop solutions which could see savings passed on to consumers, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and water usage.
Finally, the Royal Borough of Greenwich and Greater London Authority will be looking at how data collected through their "Sharing Cities Programme", could help make certain data available in a data trust, including energy consumption data collected by sensors and devices in buildings; data about parking space occupancy and the availability of charging bays for electric vehicles. This pilot is funded by Innovate UK through the ODI’s R&D programme.
ODI chief executive Jeni Tennison said: “Data trusts are one potential way to increase sharing of data and unlock more social and economic benefits from data while protecting other interests such as people’s privacy, corporate confidentiality or, as in the pilot we’re doing on data about endangered animals, our environment.
“The ODI is also looking at other approaches to increased access to data, including data sharing models such as those adopted by the European innovation programme Data Pitch, where large organisations share data with start-ups in order to fuel innovation and answer specific challenges.”
Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright has also announced a partnership with the Social Tech Trust to set up a fund of up to £30 million to provide innovators with access to finance, and a further £1 million to incentivise organisations to use tech to tackle loneliness and bring communities together.
Wright said: “Technology is already making our lives easier in many ways but there is still so much untapped potential that we can deliver for social good.
“As a world leader in emerging technologies, the UK is best placed to foster these opportunities. The new policies, backed by new funding, will encourage industry to deliver technological innovation to address issues as diverse as animal poaching, food waste and loneliness.”