As 2022 closes here’s a take on digital, data, technology and innovation delivery from City Hall on behalf of the Mayor of London…
Following the path set by the Smarter London Together Roadmap, our work has been (a) a mix of core infrastructure/capacity-building plays (I often describe this as ‘fixing the plumbing’) so London can be a better platform for helpful new services and emerging technology; and (b) specific programmes to meet city priorities around safer, fairer and greener for everyone.
Below I run through progress on:
Data and data services
Digital built environment
Emerging Tech Charter for London
Digital connectivity delivery
Much progress is being made by the GLA Connected London team working with boroughs and telcos on full fibre connectivity investment direct to homes and businesses. 24/33 London councils have now signed agreements to speed up access to buildings for telecoms kit, up from only 2 in 2017. Full fibre connectivity now stands at 48.7% compared to only 4.7% in 2017. The team are also implementing the strongest digital connectivity planning policies in the UK and are producing guidance to make sure every new home and business have access to broadband and mobile from day one. To find out more please visit the Connected London pages on London.gov.uk.
TfL’s 20-year partnership with BAI, signed last year, is laying hundreds of km of fibre using tube tunnels and street ducts, reaching all across the city, to deliver a high-capacity digital connectivity network. For passengers this means solving London’s biggest not-spot with more 4G (and 5G) coverage underground and in tunnels over the coming year. It also creates an extensive new underlying fibre infrastructure for the city to connect underserved areas. This will not only improve access to hyperfast gigabit speeds and support better mobile coverage, but also allows future innovation with IoT sensors and other networks, similar to what we’ve seen in south London, Greenwich and the Olympic Park.
A London-wide digital inclusion service
The London Office of Technology and Innovation(LOTI) at London Councils and the GLA are working with Good Things Foundation to create Get Online London, a new digital inclusion service which will support local digital inclusion initiatives run by community groups, charities and councils.
Get Online London for the first time brings together London’s work on connectivity; a free basic digital skills offer from local colleges and Good Things Foundation; and a device upcycling scheme where the Mayor and London Councils are asking public bodies and businesses to donate end-of-life laptops and IT kit to the service so it can be refurbished and given or lent to digitally excluded Londoners identified locally. The service is currently in design phase, working with practitioners across the city and will be launched in the spring.
Data for London platform
How London joins-up data held by many different organisations effectively and responsibly is a critical part of the city’s infrastructure enhancing decision-making, strategy, delivery, growth and innovation for the benefit of citizens. Data for London is a major Manifesto commitment from the Mayor to improve how the city joins up important datasets held across the city to improve insights and develop new services. The existing London Datastore (established in 2010), which serves a similar role, will be replaced with a new platform starting from the middle of next year.
A new Data for London Board will support us on the build of the platform and guide a new approach to joining up data across the city’s many partners.
The existing London Datastore already supports data and makes it accessible to everyone, from maps and visualisations of London’s environment, planning and cultural assets. The Mayor also invests in deeper data services, which have had a real impact on planning and growth such as the High Streets Data Service (buying-in footfall and neighbourhood spend data to help boroughs understand the high street economy); Infrastructure Mapping Service (coordination of utility works/digs) and the National Underground Asset Register (supporting construction by identifying underground objects).
Experience combining open and private data gives us an insight into future benefits to the city when using data to develop solutions to pressing challenges like poor air quality, net zero and cost-of-living.
Open innovation calls
Increasingly, cities have adopted open innovation labs and approaches, particularly in the United States and as well throughout Europe. The GLA’s work in open innovation developed further this year with Challenge LDN. This approach to delivery allows teams to ‘look outside of the silo’, issue open calls and engage capabilities they might not otherwise possess internally. We can then sandbox ideas and stimulate innovators to address areas of previous market failure using quick, structured prototyping.
Examples in the past of real-world solutions delivered by our approach include an open source 3D planning consultation portal; kerbside electric vehicle charging in Southwark, and Go Jauntly, an award-winning discovery and way-finding app for walking using TfL data. The current open call — working with the London borough of Barnet, is on poverty prevention and is open for ideas until mid-December.
Engaging Londoners online through Talk London
Talk London is City Hall’s online community bringing Londoners’ voices into City Hall policy and programme-making. It hosts most of City Hall’s online consultations –from clean air to housing and recovery from COVID-19 — and ensures the Mayor can meet his duty to consult with Londoners on the formation of strategies and policies. Londoners are encouraged to take part and have their say on Talk London via surveys, discussions and idea-generation activities.
2022 has been a busy year with 6,477 members taking part in 13 surveys 12,768 times, adding 2,501 comments and ideas to 15 discussions and idea generation activities and up voting and caring other members’ contributions 4,981 times.
Consultations have included the Police and Crime Plan, where participants were overrepresented by 16–24-year-olds; working with TfL the Talk London team ran a consultation on reducing emissions from public transport; the first in a series of activities with the London Plan team happened in March; and in September 2,366 members took a survey on public toilets, making it the most popular survey for 2022.
Over the last year there have been enhancements to the platform such as better analytics; improvements to discussions and commenting; a much-requested search functionality and member personalisation features to encourage greater engagement.
Considerable progress has also been made in terms of diversifying the audience. Since the site relaunch in March 2021, 16 per cent of total new members have been aged between 16 and 24 at the time of registration; and 26 per cent have been from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background. This can be compared to 8 per cent of total new members being between 16 and 24, and 19 per cent coming from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background, in the year prior to relaunch. Further improvements are planned including sharing functionality, optimising registration and engagement journeys, further personalisation features to communicate member impact better and adding some lighter touch engagement features.
Borough collaboration through LOTI
LOTI at London Councils, supported by the GLA, is currently running a huge range of projects with boroughs and the GLA from tackling digital exclusion (see above) to promoting innovation in social care. Much of LOTI’s work is focused on building local government capability to innovate at scale: this video outlines the key strands of LOTI’s work in its fourth year, including its focus on People, Technology, Data and Methods.
Highlights for me this year was seeing the power of LOTI to convene service directors from council Environment and Social Care departments with innovators to discuss the role of data, design and technology in meeting Net Zero and adult social care goals. Liberating time and convening colleagues in this way is critical to understanding digital (in its broadest sense) as core business to how we think about delivering services for Londoners rather than a back-office function.
Digital Built Environment
This year the GLA Smart Cities team reported on the final outcomes achieved by Sharing Cities, a 6-year £25 million EU-funded R&D programme that trialled a network of integrated low carbon technologies shaped by data and the needs of citizens. London led a cross-sector partnership tasked with accelerating the shift to greener and more energy efficient cities. Cities then invested an additional €260m in urban innovation activities, building on the work of Sharing Cities which proved the range of benefits data-driven and digital technologies can offer when deployed in this way.
Other key achievements included 50% carbon savings from energy reduction retrofits to more than 900 dwellings across Milan, Lisbon and London, 4500 tons of CO2 emissions saved as a result of shared mobility measures across the cities which amounted to 70% more than the initial expected impact and 2,400 smart lampposts deployed which delivered 150% more on the programme’s initial commitment.
A full overview of results can be found here along with a suite of implementation toolkits designed to help cities understand the steps required to successfully implement these technologies in their own urban contexts. These Playbooks provide practical guidance and insights, answer common questions and concerns, and provide recommendations through the knowledge gained from testing and implementing the solutions in the lighthouse cities.
Following engagement with stakeholders the Smart Cities team has been scoping a legacy programme that focuses on the delivery and financing aspects of a replicable pipeline of digital infrastructure projects in London. This is expected to launch next year.
Emerging Technology Charter for London
In February, the Mayor adopted a new guidance for the design, prototyping and deployment of smart city emerging technologies in London. The Charter sets four principles for implementing technology in London. Drafted by the Chief Digital Officer for London and advised by working group drawn from the Smart London Board, these principles draw from London’s experience deploying new technologies and the views of innovators and those of Londoners themselves and their elected representatives.
Be trustworthy with people’s data
The principles are expressed in practice through a series of suggested measures and examples. These will be added to over time where we see good practice or it is suggested to us. Resources from government departments and other bodies are also consolidated in the Charter.
The Charter is voluntary. All principles should apply to all technologies, but some measures may not — so this acts as a guide to structure and inform discussions around adoption. As part of the Charter we are developing a London Privacy Register of smart city Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) to be published on the Data for London platform.
London’s reputation as a city which uses data, technology and innovation has a strong brand, thanks in large part to the work of TfL and the London Office of Technology and Innovation. TfL’s open innovation and LOTI’s model of collaborating with local government are now approaches which other cities are following closely.
The GLA works closely with fellow European cities and cities in North America through the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights (CCDR). Following the end of the Sharing Cities smart city work in Greenwich, we continue to work with European partners through the DT4Regions project, which supports our work on the Emerging Technology Charter for London. Invaluable support continues from the Bloomberg CityLab Network, held most recently in Amsterdam, supporting city innovators in London connect with counterparts in the Americas and across Europe.
In my last major engagement of the year, I had the privilege to meet Petro Olenych, CDTO of Kyiv city government. Petro is doing phenomenal work transforming their digital platform, which in peacetime was used as a transport app, to a flexible digital service which meets wartime needs around safety and air-raid alerts, public information and more — read more here and be humbled…
Roll on 2023
We’re really excited about the newly formed Digital Experience Unit at the GLA. This brings together existing talented teams and creating new, user-centric roles. The team is led by Vicky Ridley-Pearson as the new Director of Digital, who will lead us to deliver a joined up, digital-first approach to truly improve operating efficiencies, by transforming and continuously improving the digital experience of the GLA users and Londoners. The aim is to realise the potential in data and digital technologies to give users an excellent experience. Creating an inclusive, diverse and accessible approach to everything we say and do to create clear and simple user experiences that meet defined user needs.
I look forward to seeing everyone in 2023, when we will:
- See landmark progress with London’s digital infrastructure through the Connected London programmes
- Spin-up the new Data for London platform and celebrate how the city uses data for its citizens
- Launch the Get Online London service to support digitally excluded Londoners
- Establish London’s first Privacy Register, part of the Emerging Tech Charter for London
- Explore and refine city’s approach to open innovation and digital built environment
- Celebrate the 10th anniversary of London Tech Week!
I’d like to thank the excellent Connected London, Digital Built Environment, Data, Innovation and Digital Experience teams working at City Hall for their open collaboration with partners across the city, as well as the London Office of Technology (LOTI) at London Councils and borough CDOs and the TfL Innovation team for their outstanding work meeting the Mayor’s objective to making London one of the smartest cities in the world.