Helping people to get the most out of Ofcom data

10 April 2018

Earlier this month Ofcom co-hosted an innovation day, in partnership with the Open Data Institute (ODI).

We wanted to find out more about how people use Ofcom data, as well as asking how they would like to access and use data about our sector in future.

Ofcom's Claire Cowie presenting to stakeholders at the Innovation Day

Key questions included:

  • How can different organisations use data about the communications sector in innovative ways?
  • How can we make our data more 'open'?
  • How can we make our broadband and mobile coverage data more useful?
  • What data can make life better for consumers and citizens, and are we able to provide it?

The event, which took place in Leeds, was attended by academics, local government employees, SMEs, developers, open data software specialists, and tech representatives from a range of organisations. Some people took part from other parts of the country via video link, YouTube and Google Documents. A number of people had also previously attended warm-up sessions in Leeds, Cardiff and Edinburgh.

The day started with 'lightning talks' – three- to five-minute presentations, followed by Q&As. Ofcom colleagues delivered the first few of these, outlining our current data infrastructure and the data we collect, our maps and apps, and what other regulators do with data.

Other talks heard people describe about how they use our data in practical and innovative ways, and their suggestions for how we might improve our data release programme.

The afternoon session saw delegates break out into discussion groups, covering topics which included:

  • What data does local government need?
  • How can we use data to help consumers?
  • How can we make our data more open?

What we learned

The sessions generated some interesting findings. An attendee from a charity worked with an Ofcom data specialist to create a map of 'not-spots' that have little to no mobile coverage and the location of breakdowns. It was then highlighted how this could be useful for breakdown services and the consumers who use them.

Meanwhile a delegate from an economics consultancy illustrated how they use Ofcom's data for practical purposes, to understand connectivity challenges and make the case for investment. As well as highlighting their confidence in Ofcom’s data they also expressed a number of requests for future data, including:

  • increased granularity and the ability to disaggregate data;
  • actual numbers in certain datasets, rather than averages;
  • more regular releases; and
  • improved take-up measures.

Meanwhile, one academic created user-friendly maps for the Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) which uses Ofcom’s datasets among those from other organisations. And finally, representatives of a telecoms firm explained how they use our numbering data to provide services used by the NHS, government and emergency services.

Liz Bates, from Ofcom’s policy development team, who helped to organise the event, said: “It’s been fantastic to get out there and speak to data and consumer experts directly about the opportunities they see as enabled by open data in our sector.

“We’ve learnt a lot from this process and we’re keen to maintain an open dialogue with people who want to use data to improve the lives of consumer and citizens.”

More information on the event and Ofcom’s Open Data is available at the ODI’s live blog of the event.