Digital by design - UK initiatives for growth and openness

New business models, open data and high tech hubs can all contribute to business growth.

Tranformed information culture

The information and data culture of the UK has been transformed over the last ten years.  Speaking at Digital London, Tom Loosemore (currently the Deputy Director of the UK Government's Digital Service) described the early days of a website called FixMyStreet which encourages citizens to report problems in their local area (litter, graffiti etc), bypassing the local authority.  In the early days the founders of the site received letters from lawyers.  These days a local authority is much more likely to consider using the site, rather than developing or replicating a service which is already working so well. 

Open government and user needs

This change in attitude is at least partly due to an increased focus on user needs and user centric design.  In 2010, the UK's digital champion Martha Lane Fox recommended the UK government should be revolutionary in its approach to delivering digital services.  It should reject the 'big build' mentality of previous governments and create a single domain that would simplify the user experience. This approach would have a duel benefit of improving government responsiveness and reducing costs.  Other recommendations in her report included the opening up of government's information and data to other organisations. 

Tom Loosemore spoke about the work done so far on and about other UK initiatives to improve business and society through data openness, development of digital technologies and new business approaches.  Loosemore is responsible for the delivery of which will replace hundreds of government websites and is now available in beta.  The alpha version took ten people just ten weeks to build.     

An Olympic legacy

The concept of 'legacy' was important when London was bidding for the 2012 Olympic Games.  The Games would deliver long term benefits to the UK in the form of sporting, health, housing and other 'legacies'.    Part of this legacy planning is the integration of the Olympic Park to form part of East London Tech City, a technology hub located in East London.  The development of this hub and other initiatives such as the national virtual incubator and bigawards, are focusing on helping the UK to make the most of global business opportunities.

Being digital by design requires businesses to be agile in product development and behaviour.   Transformative and innovative ideas sometimes require a different perspective.  For example, one view of the Oyster card (a pay as you go travelcard that works across London's transport network) is that it is a ticket replacement card.  A more transformative view of it is that it is a micropayment wallet and a location data sharer which has enabled the development of, for example, the game Chromorama.  

Open data in the UK

In 2011 The UK's Chancellor estimated that open data was worth approximately £16billion to the UK economy.  Over 5,400 datasets have been made available via and SMEs are exploiting this data to create new products, services and companies.  This week the UK government minister Francis Maude praised some examples of effective open data projects. 

One of the case studies highlighted was Birmingham's Civic Dashboard which seeks to encourage collaborative working between Birmingham's residents and its local authority.  By taking live data from the customer contact database, the app shows trends on a map and ensures that 'hotspots' of recurring issues are quickly and easily identified.   

The UK government is planning to launch an Open Data Institute lead by Tim Berners Lee to help maximise the commercial value of open data.

Image courtesy of rudolf_schuba via Flickr.