The economy took a huge knock in 2020, on a scale none of us could imagine. As society adjusted to difficult circumstances, one of the major changes was the way we adopted data sharing like never before. I saw first hand how Open Banking enabled innovative fintechs to rapidly step up and provide solutions such as proof of eligibility for small business coronavirus business loans (CBILS) and low-cost consumer borrowing such as salary drawdown. I saw amazing startups pivot quickly to adapt to the new circumstances, and in some cases saw consumer adoption accelerate as they quickly understood what their customers wanted, and gave them exactly what they required.

Now, at Icebreaker One, I’ve also been fortunate to be deeply involved in developing Open Energy, breaking down the barriers to data sharing through an extremely innovative data search capability and governance platform. A sector that’s rapidly decentralising and decarbonising badly needs to share data, and while the data exists, it’s hard to find and (for many types of data) requires a data-sharing agreement. And yet the potential benefits are huge. For example, we explored one use case in great detail, for a Local Authority retrofitting a community with Low Carbon Technologies (LCTs). This type of project is all too often constrained by lack of data, as it’s essential to know exactly how the local energy system is going to be impacted by all those solar panels, heat pumps and electric vehicle chargers. We were struck by the huge environmental and societal impact that can be achieved quickly when this information is easy to obtain.  

Looking at the overall landscape, we can now begin to comprehend the scale of the opportunity ahead. It’s huge. Starting with Open Banking, which already has over 2 million customers, evolving into Open Finance (think savings, mortgages, investments pensions) and then crossing sector boundaries into Energy, Transport and Telco, this is looking increasingly like an unstoppable trend. It’s recognised by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy through the Smart Data Initiative, considering the framework for future data sharing and cross-sector interoperability. It’s happening worldwide.

The progress towards unlocking and using data that’s been made in recent years signposts the very significant social, environmental and economic benefits that we can achieve. As we enable a data-sharing ecosystem, we’ll stimulate a new wave of innovation and creativity that’ll allow us to address the pressing challenges we face. Let’s seize this opportunity and make our data work hard for us to limit the impact of climate change, improve our environment, address social challenges and embrace the benefits of a vibrant, new, and extremely profitable data sharing economy.