Convene the stakeholders

Data access initiatives like Smart Data require convening multiple stakeholders that are actively working together to tackle a collective challenge.

Convening key stakeholder groups across society

Smart Data Schemes are data access initiatives, collaborative programmes that focus on collecting, using and sharing data to address a social, environmental or economic challenge. A key characteristic of data access initiatives is the need to involve multiple stakeholders that are actively working together to solve the problem. Convening these stakeholders to work together is an important foundational activity of any Smart Data Scheme.

This convening should include the following groups:

  • Government and regulatory stakeholders to provide guidance on legal aspects, provide political support and resources, and help bring different stakeholders together.

  • Large data providers and stewards from the private sector and elsewhere to provide access to data about consumers and SMEs, about which the right to data portability is relevant. Can provide access to non-Smart Data, such as mobile phone coverage or price of renewable energy options, as well as combining data and increasing value.

  • Data users such as start ups, intermediaries and other businesses, that can use the available data to create valuable and financially sustainable solutions for consumers, businesses and other organisations.

  • Civil society such as non-profits and charities, to ensure that there are mission-driven solutions being developed which address gaps in market-based solutions, especially those regarding financial or digital inclusion and combatting vulnerability. These actors are often able to represent beneficiary communities that cannot be directly involved in design and delivery.

  • Research and academia, in order to access data to study topics in greater depth, as well as provide research insights to policymakers and other organisations.

The role of convening often falls to government bodies and regulators that have a mandate or remit over a particular data ecosystem, such as the FCA's Advisory Group on open finance or the Smart Data Working Group by BEIS.

Independent non-profit organisations have also taken on the role. Sometimes this is under official guidance, such as the ODI setting up the Open Banking Working Group at the request of HM Treasury, direct funding such as the Open Energy Advisory Groups funded by Ofgem and BEIS, or independently like the Open Finance Working Group hosted by Finance Innovation Lab.

Encourage engagement across the in-scope sectors and beyond prior to and during implementation, including with businesses, trade associations and civil society organisations through open consultation. Co-creating a ‘consumer manifesto’, for example, will help to create consumer awareness of the Smart Data initiative, and establish shared objectives.

Look to existing working groups and areas of collaboration like industry bodies and how they can be leveraged. There has been a recent increase in the number of working groups and this could reduce important engagement and crowd out voices. Industry groups can play a central role in convening working groups, reducing duplication of effort, and ensuring siloes are not created across the sector.

Formalising a working group

In order to ensure this convening continues and stays on mission, a formal body such as a working group should be created with a remit directly linked to the goal of the initiative. This has happened in some regulated sectors to date, including the Open Banking Working Group, which evolved into the Open Banking Implementation Entity and finally Open Banking Ltd.. Other sectors have also seen similar bodies such as the Open Finance Working Group and the Open Energy Advisory Groups.

As Smart Data Schemes and other data access initiatives become more tangible, and require consistent funding and legal authority, it may make sense to formally transition them into a legal organisation that may take on the role of a data institution.

For Smart Data more broadly it could be beneficial to establish a cross-sector 'Smart Data Council' comprising experts from in-scope sectors, data and digital, commerce, regulation, and experts in the type of desired outcomes (such as consumer vulnerability and climate action) that are agreed as objectives. A council should be tasked with the coordination and supporting the implementation of Smart Data standards, along with plans and deadlines for how this will be implemented, funded, governed and iterated. Its chair should be widely trusted across the sector.

It is important to include a cross-sector group among government agencies involved in the development and implementation of Smart Data within a Smart Data Council, to build on the regulations and further define responsibilities and oversight, such as BEIS, DCMS, BRE and others. Other responsibilities for this convening body will be to introduce milestones for standards development and expansion, and to agree on the long-term funding and governance model.

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