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Written by Patrice John-Baptiste Open Data Institute
The challenge with limited access to data about sport and physical activity opportunities
Improving local engagement in sport and physical activity is an ongoing challenge. For every person leading an active lifestyle there is another who is struggling to establish a physical activity habit.
Nearly 18 million adults in England experience a changeable relationship with physical activity. They face ongoing barriers, such as not knowing what opportunities are available in their local area, being easily distracted by other interests competing for their free time and life events such as moving house or having kids getting in the way.
People who are trying to discover relevant opportunities to get active face hurdles in doing so. Information, such as when a swimming class is, or where a community running group takes place, is hidden behind closed data systems, listed in brochures or sitting redundantly in PDF documents that quickly become out of date. This is known as ‘opportunity data’. The lack of opportunity data accessible for others both limits the services that can use the data to attract more people to activities and reduces the choice of activities people can find.
The OpenActive initiative, stewarded by the Open Data Institute (ODI), supported by Sport England, and formed of member organisations and individuals in the sport and physical activity sector, share a vision to help people get active by stimulating use and innovation with open opportunity data – data that is openly available for anyone to access, use and share.
The initiative hopes to play a part in overcoming some of these barriers by supporting organisations offering products and services for people wanting to get more active such as fitness and health organisations in the public and private sector, innovative lifestyle and sports apps, sports and leisure activity finders, platforms and supporting services. This will help the sport and physical activity sector keep apace with people’s digital expectations, making it as easy to find a local walking group or book a badminton court as it is to book a hotel online.
CSPs take a leading role to influence transformation in the sector with open opportunity data
CSPs are playing a vital role in influencing local leisure and sports providers to publish open opportunity data.
Through face-to-face training hosted by the ODI, Active Essex, Energise Me, London Sport, Sport Birmingham and Active Gloucestershire have established the data literacy foundations needed within their organisation to understand the value of open opportunity data in their locality so they can begin to influence others to work with it. London Sport, Greater Sport, Active Surrey, Kent Sport and Energise Me have invited the ODI to host workshops and tailored talks with local leisure providers and trusts to broaden their understanding of open opportunity data. While Active Essex and Energise Me have been working independently to create the foundations for open opportunity data with local leisure providers, including engagements with national leisure operators.
London Sport has been proactively engaging with its network to broaden awareness of the role open opportunity data can play towards digitally transforming the sport and physical activity environment in London. Following a guest presentation from the ODI at London Sport’s annual conference, London Sport has helped to influence major leisure operators to publish open opportunity data with other advocates as part of the initiative. These leisure operators joined the OpenActive Pioneers as early adopters demonstrating leadership to publish open opportunity data.
Crucially, CSPs are helping local authorities and trusts to imbed open data publishing terms in leisure and system contracts. Sport England, directed by DCMS’ Sporting Future strategy, has made open data a requirement for all funded organisations, relevant to getting more people involved in sport and physical activity. These proposed open data publishing terms comply with the OpenActive data publishing guidance and specifications which ensure the data is consistent and widely useable. Encouraging this contracting practice safeguards a growing and sustainable supply of open opportunity data available within local areas.
Using their local network to facilitate the promotion of low-cost OpenActive compliant tools, such as Open Sessions, London Sport, Greater Sport, Energise Me, and Active Essex are all helping small community sport organisations to publish data openly to broaden its reach.
CSPs are also encouraging local activity finders and regional digital initiatives to use open opportunity data such as Get Active London, One You Kent, or the Greater Manchester Wellness Hub.
Open opportunity data will play an increasingly important role to help people get active as more data becomes available. Join the initiative to explore how you can help support your local community.
The ODI is continuing to build the OpenActive community with CSPs and other organisations interested in exploring how open opportunity data can support their local sport and physical activity aims. Through events, talks, workshops, guidance and training, CSPs can establish a clear understanding of the role of open opportunity data, its value and how it can help to solve common hurdles with getting people more active.
If you’re interested in finding out more, including upcoming training, events or want to speak with the OpenActive team please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find out more online http://www.openactive.io, or sign up to the monthly initiative update.