I was delighted to be invited to 10 Downing Street today, as part of a group of small businesses led by Enterprise Nation.
The purpose of our visit was to meet with Daniel Korski, the Prime Minister’s deputy policy advisor, to relay our feedback with regards to government support of small businesses. I was pleased to prepare the following points for contribution to the discussion:
Public Transportation Data should be Public
UrbanThings empowers intelligent mobility and we do this by working with public datasets of transportation data. However, there exists no mandate for bus and rail operators to release such valuable information as Open Data. Given that such operators are subsidised by the public purse, and the obvious value of this data, we think that such a mandate is necessary and should form a key part of the actual franchise agreement to which operators subscribe. A great place to make a start at enforcing this would be the forthcoming Buses Bill.
Anecdotally, we have heard that some operators are opposed to these measures not because of any fundamental opposition to the concept of data sharing, but because of a fear that greater scrutiny of their data might result in levies or fines, for example, from the Transport Commissioner. We would urge the government to offer the necessary reassurance to operators that opening up their data for the wider good would not lead to such punitive measures.
We would draw attention to Transport for London’s Open Data policy, a perfect example of an unrestricted policy that has reaped rewards in the nation’s capital. TfL make all their operational data available for free, and this approach has fostered a rich marketplace of application development that, in turn, encourages increased footfall back to the operator, completing the perfect circle.
London Tech Recruitment is Tough!
We’re fortunate to have an amazing team here at UrbanThings, but getting the right people has seemed, at times, impossible. A basic supply shortage combined with an anecdotal talent drain into fintech can make it extremely hard for SMEs to recruit the top talent that they need to compete on a global stage. While we’re not positioned to offer a cast-iron solution to these woes, we would suggest consideration of the following measures that would help SMEs to compete:
- Extended financial support for SMEs in their crucial early stages, for example an increase to the Employment Allowance or the ability to reclaim the first £20,000 of PAYE for companies with less than 5 employees operating in the technology sector.
- Address the issue of supply with an increased focus on technology and programming in UK curriculums from an early age.
I was most grateful to Daniel for listening to our wider points, to Enterprise Nation for arranging the visit and I very much hope that our feedback will be taken on board. Sadly I also forgot to nick any Downing Street loo roll, so came away with only the memories.