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Transport For London’s Open Data ‘Adds £130m A Year To Economy’

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The open data improves transportation network efficiency while creating economic opportunities and directly supporting hundreds of jobs

The release of real-time data by Transport for London (TfL) boosts the capital’s economy by around £130 million per year, according to a new study, which found it improves journeys and makes network usage more efficient while directly supporting hundreds of jobs that wouldn’t otherwise have existed.

The research, commissioned by TfL and carried out by Deloitte, looks to measure the economic impact of the transport authority’s release of free, real-time data in open formats, including timetables, service status and disruption information.

Ten years of open data

TfL has been publishing such data for nearly a decade, at a cost of about £1m annually, which Deloite said suggests a “significant return on investment”.

The data supports the development of a wide range of products and services – TfL has more than 12,000 registered developers – and as such means cost savings for the authority, which might otherwise have to invest more in getting the information to users itself.

A TfL information chatbot
A TfL information chatbot

Around 75 percent of the data is available via APIs, according to the study, and there are currently more than 80 TfL data feeds including operational and corporate information across all London’s means of transport.

Around 600 mobile applications are powered by the feeds and they’re used by about 42 percent of Londoners, Deloitte estimated. The number is even higher for TfL’s website, with 83 percent using it.

Deloitte estimated the data directly supports around 500 jobs that would not otherwise exist, as well as the indirect creation of another 230 jobs in the supply chain and the wider economy.

Economic contribution

As a further benefit, TfL receives back significant data in areas such as crowdsourced traffic information through partnerships with major data and software organisations.

Businesses using the data include Waze, Twitter, Google, Apple, Citymapper, Bus Checker, Bus Times and Mapway, as well as academics and professional developers.

The study estimated that third-party developers’ free access to timely data resulted in a ‘Gross Value Add’ of between £12m and £15m per year.

London underground tfl christmas star lights © Bikeworldtravel ShutterstockThe figure is intended to quantify what these companies contribute to the London economy, both indirectly and indirectly.

“This new research from Deloitte backs our strong belief that providing data in an open, transparent and free-to-access way can be massively beneficial for both London and the wider economy,” said TfL managing director of customers, communications and technology Vernon Everitt in a statement.

The city’s recently appointed chief digital officer, Theo Blackwell, asid the research shows “the full power of open data and how it can be embraced to improve our city to meet the needs of Londoners”.

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