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midata learnings

Posted on: Wednesday 20th of November 2013

The midata Innovation Lab (mIL) wound up Phase One yesterday with the publication of a report highlighting the key learnings, and a speech by Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson at a showcase event where she predicted “in a few years time, we will all be using apps whose origins lie in this Lab”.

The mIL, she said, had been “wonderfully valuable” in creating the “tangible examples that create light bulb moments” where people grasp the potential of midata.

Key learnings from the mIL include the need to focus communications on value rather than the data per se and the need to automate data processing as far as possible (because manual data handling raises barriers to usage). Also, the process of getting multiple stakeholders (big businesses, developers, consumer advocates, regulators) around a table focused on a practical project stimulates and accelerates innovation.

Key consumer learnings include evidence that there is consumer demand for midata-enabled apps; that (as with all other products and services) consumer preferences differ; and that underlying consumer concerns about data security and privacy remain strong and still need to be addressed. The report was published by BIS, Ctrl-Shift and the mIL.

The midata Innovation Lab Showcase

At the mIL Showcase event we spoke to our CEO Liz Brandt, about Ctrl-Shift’s role, the key learnings from the mIL and the insights the mIL has provided about the evolution of the market. Liz highlights how the mIL has provided an opportunity for organisations from many disciplines to work together to create value from data integrated around individuals.


We also spoke to some of the participant organisations to find out what they had learned from being involved in the mIL. Stuart Crawford-Browne from GfK explains that the mIL has helped them understand how to navigate the challenges around personal data. Julian Saunders from Allfiled comments “We’ve managed to share a lot of ideas and we’ve worked in an exciting and dynamic pressured timescale environment so ideas have been formed very quickly and practical and tangible results have been achieved that can be shown to individuals and businesses to demonstrate the potential of the personal information economy.”


Group discussion at the midata Innovation Lab Showcase

Next steps

Momentum behind the midata vision is now building in a number of ways. On December 2, the Connected Digital Economy Catapult (CDEC) is hosting a seminar to explore ways to build on the mIL experience and to take the innovation opportunity further.

Under its Data Capabilities initiative, the UK Government is exploring new ways to widen the midata initiative to include personal data held by Government bodies (the potential contribution of this data to app design was another key learning from the mIL).

Meanwhile, Consumer Affairs Ministers Jo Swinson has written to the CEOs of companies in regulated industries asking them to report on their progress on implementing midata. This is part of the Government’s review of the programme and will inform its decision on whether to take legislation further.

A parallel experiment to the mIL is now under way in France as part of the purely voluntary MesInfos initiative.

Rich opportunities

In her speech at the Showcase event, held at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, Jo Swinson discussed the notion of ‘affordances’ – how an item designed to do one thing can usually be used to do many other things too. You don’t just sit on chairs for example. You may stand on one in order to change a light bulb.

One participant at the event likened personal data to the flour in the Great British Bake Off – it can be used to make so many different things: all sorts of different breads, cakes, pastries, biscuits, croissants and so on. Historically, personal data has only been used for one purpose – as a corporate asset. With midata – personal data organised around the individual – the same data can be re-used and re-purposed to enable the innovation of a whole host of new personal information services.

The mIL demonstrated this potential. The challenge – and opportunity – is to unlock this potential. An article published by Marketing Week highlights the importance of  ensuring “business, legal and technical aspects of new services” are “developed iteratively and in tandem”.