In April, we announced the launch of the Open Data Campaign to close the “data divide” and ensure that organizations of all sizes have access to the data they need to innovate with artificial intelligence (AI). To demonstrate the importance of being more open with data and the need to share data to address pressing issues, we committed to the development of 20 data collaborations by 2022. Through these collaborations, we will work with partners to address issues that are “top of mind” and require urgent action. One thing remains true in these uncertain times: To tackle the pressing societal issues we face today – everything from climate change to COVID-19, justice reform to digital access – people and organizations need access to the data that can help unlock the power of innovation and technology.
The past several months have accelerated this work in many ways, and we are learning a lot. The campaign launched just as the world was grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the value of being more open with data become clear in new, undeniable ways. For example, The Alan Turing Institute had been leading an air quality project, with the support of Microsoft’s AI for Earth program, collecting data from across London to understand air pollution. As the summer progressed, however, the institute discovered that analysis of these same data streams could also be used to understand London’s “busyness” as COVID-19 restrictions were eased. It’s just one example of how open data and data collaboration can provide valuable insights beyond their initial focus.
When armed with the right data, organizations are empowered to make decisions that positively impact their employees, customers and the communities they serve. In many ways, data is taking center stage in the response from governments and companies to fuel promising solutions and ideas.
Since launching the campaign, we have moved forward in forging strong data collaborations with partners – focusing our efforts on issues that require commitment, collaboration and urgent action to address:
- Climate change: On September 1, Microsoft joined with Allianz, Amazon and S&P Global to announce plans to launch the Climate Finance Foundation, led by the Linux Foundation. Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century, and we are committed to being a part of the solution. The ability to leverage high-quality, open, corporate sustainability data will be critical for enabling the investment community to make informed decisions based on accurate and reliable economic models around corporate climate-related risk and opportunity. Microsoft is investing heavily in sustainability, and we have made a commitment to share relevant sustainability data to the open Data Commons supported by this effort.
- COVID-19: The Alan Turing Institute partnered with the Greater London Authority, supported by Microsoft and the London Data Commission, to demonstrate the value of data sharing to help support London’s response and recovery to COVID-19. This pilot is looks at London’s “busyness” – or movement around the city – through multiple data sources as COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed to monitor how people are responding to the changes. Microsoft provided Azure AI and cloud infrastructure and services to support the COVID-19 pilot. Transport for London is already operationalizing the outputs from this pilot.
- Digital access and education: When we launched the Open Data Campaign in April, one of our first announcements was that we would be working with the Open Data Institute and BroadbandNow to help address the issue of broadband availability. With COVID-19 taking a significant toll on students’ ability to access face-to-face education, we know that this need is more urgent than ever. As governments, policymakers, nonprofits, and organizations around the world are looking at ways to target resources that serve students more effectively, we are excited to share that we’ll be launching an Open Data Challenge in October to look at the impact of digital access and COVID-19 on young students’ education. We look forward to sharing more details on this collaboration in the coming weeks.
So where do we go from here? We take seriously our commitment to make data sharing easier, safer and more efficient, and we will continue to work with a range of stakeholders to develop new data collaborations that address the challenges of today. We will also focus on developing the tools and governance frameworks necessary to make data sharing easier for organizations of all sizes.
While the progress we’ve made in five short months has been encouraging, we recognize that there is more work to do. We hope you’ll follow our progress at news.microsoft.com/opendata.
Together, we can empower the world to share and use data more effectively.