Although access to data is a precondition to analyse it, the main cost in data analysis is often not the data itself, but the skills and time to analyse it. An investment of time which, like all investments, may not always pay off and which has to be compared against the returns to other data analysis options. This is important as at the same time as the increase of public open data many other new private sector data sources are becoming available from administrative systems, website analytics, web scraping, sensors and Applications Programming Interfaces (APIs). These data sources are, implicitly, competing with public open data for analysts’ attention. There is now more open public data, but there’s more private data too (both open and closed) and, in the short-term it’s much easier to increase the availability of open data, than the supply of people with the skills to analyse it.
Though they have long collected data, increasingly in digital form, government agencies have struggled to create the infrastructure and acquire the skills needed to make use of this administrative data to realize the promise of evidence-based policymaking.
That’s the big difference between then and now. You can have literally the same look and feel as Mapbox without having to pay a dime if you want. That’s the big game changer, open access to open data means that we’re all working on the same basemap and making improvements to that map. We can get all emotional with words like democratization but it really has changed how we work with data. Power is no longer controlled by large companies (the reason why GDT was purchased by TeleAtlas which was acquired by TomTom). But we never have to worry about that because the map is controlled by everyone.
In transport, we quickly move from policy writing to delivery. To deliver ‘the thing’ that we said we would. A new bus service, a new transport scheme, public realm improvements, whatever. Service design does that, but intervenes at critical points to ensure its design around user requirements. This is not about restructuring Councils or whole frameworks of delivery — that I have long since stopped caring about — but ensuring user centricity at policy, project, and translatory stages.
The moral imperative to respond to global warming. As humanity faces an existential test, tech founders are not relying on governments to save the day. Urban areas are the most vulnerable to climate change, and they are also responsible for over 70% of global emissions. Already, startups are building skyscrapers from sustainably managed forests, creating energy saving technology that adjusts temperature and lighting based on your presence in rooms, and creating gigafactories to wean the world off of fossil fuels.
Because technology is so ingrained in our lives, it’s easy to forget there are other options in the morning besides reaching for the phone. But come tomorrow morning, we don’t have to do what we did yesterday. Come tomorrow morning, we don’t have to do what 80% of the population does upon rising. Come tomorrow morning, we can do something much more fulfilling.
We’re not actually in a car-centric culture. We’re in a driver-centric culture. The sacrifices and accommodations we make in our daily life and world, which we’ve always ascribed to car culture, are much more accurately characterized as concessions to the driver than as concessions to the car. We never paid attention to this difference before, because prior to recently it was a frivolous distinction. But times are changing, and this difference is turning out to mean a great deal.