LOTI Launches New Data Ethics Support for London

Today LOTI is launching the London Data Ethics Service, encompassing three initiatives that aim to support our members to use residents’ data in an ethical way, deserving of their trust.

The Data Ethics Service will be served by a new Data Ethicist role, employed by LOTI. The actions taken by the Data Ethics Service follow our in-depth Recommendations for Local Government Data Ethics Capabilities, which serve as a north star for where LOTI hopes to guide boroughs in the future.

Why are we doing this?

To create the public services of the future, local authorities need to be able to responsibly innovate with data. ‘Smart cities’ approaches, where a wealth of data types from different sources are linked up to allow for more real-time, targeted and even proactive decision-making, highlight the possible benefits of this approach. Equally though, surveys show that residents lack confidence in these technologies – often rightly, as there has been no consistent and strategic approach to ensuring data practice meets the ethical standards that residents hold. 

Over the past couple of years, LOTI has worked with two pioneering boroughs – Camden and Brent – and is now ready to scale up its support for all LOTI members. In Camden, LOTI supported the borough’s Data Charter, which was created by and is directly accountable to residents and determines the council’s approach to data. In Brent, LOTI helped with the creation and evaluation of their Data Ethics Board, a group of internal and external experts who provide feedback on data projects. The new LOTI initiatives build on this, as we hope to embed these approaches in our community more widely. 

London Data Ethics Service

The London Data Ethics Service has three pillars, which will be delivered under the supervision of the LOTI Data Ethicist.

The first pillar is Project Facilitation. LOTI will facilitate short workshops with teams managing data projects in order to provide practical advice on thinking through their ethical implications.

The second pillar is helping to develop the Capabilities as listed in our recommendations, through piloting, evaluating, or other support.

The third pillar is developing pan-London resources, standards and initiatives, working with external partners wherever possible, so that London as a whole is prepared for future data ethics challenges. 

LOTI Recommendations for Local Government Data Ethics Capabilities

Infographic of all 16 of LOTI Data Ethics Recommendations

LOTI has created a Toolkit to guide local authorities in how they develop their own data ethics capabilities. This toolkit has 16 recommendations with practical tips and examples of good practice, written in descending maturity order. These recommendations seek to knit together the already great initiatives and resources created elsewhere. 

They were sourced through desk research, including the creation of case studies, as well as conversations with organisations like the Alan Turing Institute, Ada Lovelace Institute, Open Data Institute, the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI), and the Central Digital and Data Office in the Cabinet Office, as well as local government, including Brent, Westminster and the LOTI Data Practitioners network and Local Government Association. 

LOTI Data Ethicist

To truly deliver on LOTI’s ambitions will require learning by doing. We still need to discover what good and best practice looks like for so many parts of data ethics. After all, much of our research shows that it’s time to move beyond discussing principles and towards action. Therefore, LOTI provided dedicated data ethics training to two staff, Jay Saggar and Sam Nutt, and following that, Sam Nutt will serve part-time as London’s first-ever ‘Data Ethicist’. In this role, he will help deliver the London Data Ethics Service and assist boroughs in a hands-on manner.

Sam Nutt
12 October 2022 ·
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