This article was published on November 29, 2011

UK government to outline major ‘open data’ push for travel and healthcare

UK government to outline major ‘open data’ push for travel and healthcare
Paul Sawers
Story by

Paul Sawers

Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check h Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check him out on Google+.

As part of Chancellor George Osborne’s Growth Review announcement today, the anticipated gloomy forecast for the UK economy will be juxtaposed against the government’s ‘world-leading commitments’ to open up public sector data. This will be with a view towards enhancing travel, healthcare and, ultimately, helping to drive economic growth and boost jobs in the UK.

A little over a year after Prime Minister David Cameron’s momentous proclamation that he planned to transform London’s East End into a genuine rival to Silicon Valley, Osborne will reiterate government plans to boost investment in a number of initiatives, one of which will be digital technology.

The Shoreditch area of London was already a burgeoning technological hub before Cameron & Co. usurped the idea, but their ‘TechCity’ vision has certainly helped raise the area’s international profile, and has heralded a number of developments and investments. Will all this bring about the next Apple, Google or Skype? Only time will tell.


When Transport for London (TfL) announced announced back in September 2010 that it was opening its bus and London Underground data for developers to access, a steady stream of apps began to emerge from the developer underworld. Indeed, we’ve written about a number of these apps, such as Bus Guru, which incorporates live, real-time bus times and the best routes from TfL’s Journey Planner and Countdown System.

Osborne will today note the high economic cost of inefficient travel and transport, in terms of its effect on business productivity. It’s estimated that congestion costs European cities around €100bn each year, which is roughly 1% of GDP. With that in mind, Osborne will announce further plans to make business logistics and commuting more efficient, by adopting a new “planned and real-time running of trains and buses across Great Britain”, with data made available for every road in the UK, including roadworks, for integration with ‘satnav’ and other GPS-enabled digital technology.

By spring 2012, data will be released relating to all 350,000 bus stops across the UK, with the Department for Transport (DfT) working with Traveline to release the ‘Next Buses API’.

DfT will also work alongside Network Rail and the broader transport industry to make real-time running data available. It will be released for free, and will open the floodgates for road and rail apps across the entire country.


Osborne’s announcement will outline the government’s vision to enhance existing medical knowledge and practice, with a ‘new first-world data service’ designed to track the efficacy of healtchcare (‘impacts’) across the NHS to help attract medical research investment.

The UK’s healthcare service will link datasets from primary (e.g. GP) and secondary (e.g. hospital) care, giving health service, pharmaceutical and other medical professionals new levels of information and insights about patients’ journeys through the care system, and the efficacy of different treatments.

But it’s not just about transport and healthcare. The Chancellor will announce plans to let entrepreneurs develop useful applications for businesses and consumers “using the largest volume of open, free high-quality weather data in the world”.

Perhaps one of the more intriguing announcements will be the establishment of a new Open Data Institute in Shoreditch – co-directed by World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee – to innovate, exploit and research open data opportunities with businesses and the academic world.

“We are committed to making this Government a world leader in transparency and have made a wealth of data available for the first time to improve performance in public services and drive growth as applications of the data are developed”, said a Downing Street spokesperson. “New commitments this week will truly open up health data, as we have seen with the Dr Foster report, to drive up standards for patients, improve effectiveness of care and ensure we deliver a world class health service.”

George Osborne’s Autumn statement kicks-off today at 12.30pm (GMT).

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