You may have heard of the Cabinet-Office-initiated Open Data project, which provides us with more access to government information/official data. You may be a regular user of data.gov.uk . You might be interested to know that there is now a new kind of parallel scheme called Midata which is set to make consumer data more readily available to us all.
The people – the companies, the organisations – we do business with know a lot about our purchasing habits and they have the data to prove it. So far, although the Data Protection Act already allows us to ask any organisation – including private companies – to show us the information they hold on us, few of us seek it out and so the data these companies have on us has mainly benefited them. Now the government is pushing for us all to have easier digital access to all our personal transactional data so that knowledge of our patterns of spending can benefit us too.
Under the Midata scheme, we should be able to use the information in the data held on us to, for example, monitor our usage of utilities, take our usage profile to new providers and, if we want to, switch products/organisations to save money.
On this morning’s ‘Today’ programme, Brian Glick, editor in chief of Computer Weekly and John Hayes, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning said that the government’s new scheme is about “allowing (consumers) to make more informed decisions”.
Even if the data – it’s about us – is data we will be somewhat familiar with, there will still be lots of different levels of experience of interpreting patterns in data so the new scheme will need to consider its users’ needs and abilities and make sure that it is supplying data in the most helpful form. It is good to hear that consultation on this is already underway (set to close in mid September).
Whist there are 26 large companies (e.g. EDF, Mastercard and British Gas) signed up to the scheme so far, there are plans to make this approach to opening up consumer data compulsory. It will be interesting to see how quick companies are to get fully behind this scheme and – very importantly – how much appetite there is on the part of the consumers for this data.
From a getstats perspective, it will simply be good to learn more about how to interest and engage the wider public in the use of useful data.