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Give a Little, Gain a Lot

By Nathan Morgan, Commercial Manager

I am delighted that Ofwat has published H2Open, a paper that aims to “supercharge a public discussion about the benefits of open data and how it could be used to help address some of the challenges the water sector faces from climate change, the environment, changing customer demands and protecting the most vulnerable.”

This document presents a case for change, acknowledging that the sharing of data across the industry is a huge untapped opportunity to stimulate innovation, increase efficiency, enhance customer experiences and tackle challenges.

Six months after I wrote about the impacts of poor data in the water market for customers, it’s really good to see the regulator championing the cause. It is an important first step to move the industry towards open data standards that have already delivered great benefits to other sectors. Understandably, Ofwat’s focus is primarily domestic customers, however, valid points are raised, and logical goals are set out that will also benefit non-household water customers.

For many incumbent water companies, this initiative will, I hope, motivate and accelerate changes in both mindset and technical capabilities to deliver open water data to relevant stakeholders.

My team and I have been engaged in detailed discussions around collaborative data sharing for some years based on the principle that ‘you give a little, you gain a lot’. Transparency is fundamental to how we work.

Our overall experience so far has been one of keenness on the water companies’ part to provide this data, but progress has been thwarted by a lack of focus on data sharing within technology stacks, legacy data issues and overly restrictive governance.

So, what’s the answer?

In my opinion, generating meaningful change around open data within the non-household market requires all trading parties to dedicate time and energy into a two-pronged collaborative approach.

The first is to engage with Ofwat’s H2Open initiative.

The second, which must not be overlooked, is to engage with market operator MOSL’s Data Insight Improvement Programme. MOSL is uniquely placed to be a driver of change within the non-household market through policy and technical solutions. Waterscan is pleased to be involved in a trading party subgroup which is advising and guiding on the implementation of its Market Data Strategy and Data Charter which should achieve better wholesaler engagement and, therefore, access to more data sources which can be centralised.

However you get involved, the time is now, and I would suggest it’s far better to do so voluntarily rather than through fear of penalty (which surely will be introduced if the market does not deliver on its own accord).

Please feel free to contact me to discuss and engage in any collaborative working to open up this market’s data and make it the success that I know it can be.