UK launches first ‘data trust’ pilots

New approaches to building trust in AI and in open data have been announced. I will be awaiting ‘data trust’ developments in my local borough with interest.

InfluenceIn September I participated in a round table discussion for the CIPR‘s Influence magazine about artificial intelligence, AI (the outputs from that conversation will be published in the Q4 issue of the magazine shortly) – part of an ongoing discussion within the CIPR about the potential impacts of AI on ethical professional PR practice and on wider media and society at large (read more about the CIPR’s #AIinPR panel).

Part of that Influence discussion focused on use of UK-published ‘open data’ by journalists to generate news stories, and – as I had previously written a CIPR best practice guide to open data and delivered a CIPR webinar – I repeated my view that PR professionals increasingly need to be data-literate to operate in the 21st century and to work with ‘data journalists’ such as those at the Press Association’s RADAR service (news item).

I have been thinking about Open data and AI again today after reading that the Open Data Institute will be working within central and local government (including my local council in the Royal Borough of Greenwich) on a series of ‘data trust’ pilots. The ODI be leading a data trust project with the Mayor of London in Greenwich using real-time data.

The new pilot projects will establish if this new approach – where a legal structure provides independent third-party stewardship of data – is useful in managing and safeguarding data, for instance, data about cities, the environment, biodiversity, and transport.

The Government’s Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright said:

“We are a world-leader in artificial intelligence and our modern Industrial Strategy puts pioneering technologies at the heart of our plans to build a Britain which is fit for the future. But it is crucial that the public have confidence it is being used to improve people’s lives and we have the right expertise and framework in place to maximise its potential.

“I am pleased we have secured global leaders from academia and industry to work alongside us as we develop the world’s first Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation and explore the potential of data trusts.”

Chief Executive of the Open Data Institute (ODI), Jeni Tennison, announced that it will also be working on a further pilot project to prototype a data trust with the Mayor of London and the Royal Borough of Greenwich. City Hall is working with the ODI on data trusts as part of its Smarter London Together Roadmap to support AI and protect ‘privacy by design’ for Londoners.

This Greenwich project will focus on real time data from IoT and sensors, and will investigate how this data could be shared with innovators in the technology sector to create solutions to city challenges.

Future data trusts could take advantage of the Urban Sharing Platform that the Mayor of London 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, for example: energy use, parking space occupancy and weather, while maintaining the privacy and security of Londoners.

The pilots are the first of their kind in the UK. The Open Data Institute will work in the open and with other organisations and experts from around the world to explore the model. Following the pilot projects, the Open Data Institute will make proposals for the use of data trusts in future.

The ODI defines a data trust as ‘a legal structure that provides independent third-party stewardship of data’. This structure and stewardship provides benefits to a group of organisations or people. Those benefits might include enabling them to create new businesses, helping research a medical disease, or empowering a community of workers, consumers or citizens.

Jeni Tennison, CEO at the Open Data Institute said:

“In 2018 we have become much more aware of who has access to data – data about ourselves, our family, our friends and our work. 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. ”

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