Using Openly Available Data to Improve Local Environments

The Industry Data for Society Partnership (IDSP) believes that openly available data has a key role to play in addressing societal challenges.

The IDSP and the Open Data Institute are launching the Data for Local Environments Challenge to highlight the role publicly available data can play in better understanding how local governments can improve local environments, such as reaching their net zero goals.

The problem we want to solve 

Our local environment impacts the way we live, our health, the quality of the air that we breathe and the local biodiversity around us. Cumulatively, addressing local environmental issues impacts our climate. The decisions of local governments will affect our lives and the world around us. From managing local services to meeting net zero goals, local governments are making decisions that impact our lives and help address climate change.

A large number of local authorities have declared climate emergencies and launched ambitious climate emergency plans seeking to achieve carbon neutrality in the 2030s. For local government officials, access to data, including data that the private sector can make available, as well as the ability to draw insights from it will be critical to achieving these goals.

But it has been challenging for local governments to understand what data is accessible to them and how to use it to generate insights and solutions, and what additional data could be used to improve their understanding. Some of the questions we would like participants to consider include: 

  • What steps can local governments take to improve the local environment?
  • What kinds of data are most useful for understanding their progress to net zero and developing solutions to make further progress? 
  • What kinds of replicable data use and analysis techniques can local governments use to make the most of existing data relevant to their environmental goals such as achieving net zero? 
  • What additional data, particularly from industry, would be most useful for local governments in developing or achieving their environmental goals and actions?
  • How can open data be made more usable and what types of data infrastructure are needed?
  • How can data portals be improved to increase usability for local governments?
  • What questions are material to making use of data to improve the environment?
  • What OSS tools are available to help translate data into insights for decision-making?

Challenge Outcome

We believe that data the private sector shares, or helps to curate, can be used to help governments improve the local environment. For example, data regarding electrical distribution networks, when combined with other open data, can help local governments determine how best to support green initiatives such as electric vehicle roll out schemes. Near real time environmental data available can help identify how government resources can be prioritized. We are seeking teams to evaluate the current state of local government plans and progress to improve the local environment such as reaching net zero goals and suggest innovative solutions using publicly available data to further that progress. We would like teams to identify gaps in how such localities are using data to develop those plans, and suggest innovative, realistic, and replicable ways that they can use available datasets to address these gaps and improve the ability of all locales to make progress on environmental goals through data.  

Innovative solutions should focus on at least one of these aspects: 

  • The steps governments can take to reach sustainability goals such as achieving net zero emissions. 
  • Techniques to use data to analyze and develop plans and actions to reach said goals.
  • Identification of relevant datasets currently available and additional data that could be made available to improve such analysis and support proposed solutions. 
  • Identify opportunities to improve data provision by considering how data can be made more usable and what data infrastructure is needed.
  • Help organizations publish more usable open data.

Challenge Data

The Industry Data for Society Partnership is highlighting publicly available data that is relevant to this Challenge, including private sector data that the members have opened and curated. In the energy transition space, we have identified data under the following themes or areas:

  • Electricity generation;
  • Equity;
  • Transport and mobility;
  • Heat and buildings;
  • Land use and the environment; 
  • Economic benefits; and
  • Green jobs and skills.

UK Power Networks’ Open Data Portal has regional electricity network and innovation project data;

UK Power Networks’ Local Area Energy Plan page – identified 154 unique datasets useful for 30 Net Zero use cases;

UK Power Networks’ DSO Dashboard – real-time operation data on each part of our local networks listed by Grid Supply Points (GSP), where our network connects to National Grid;

Microsoft’s Planetary Computer Data Catalogue; and

LinkedIn Global Green Skills Report 2022

We encourage participants to use these openly available datasets to answer the Challenge questions, and we welcome teams to use any further relevant datasets they have access to, and are free to use, for the purpose of the Challenge. 


We welcome participants from any background, field, and location. We believe that people who have the most relevant skills to be involved in the Challenge are:   

  • People with mathematics/statistics/data analysis knowledge: 
    • University students from courses such as statistics, mathematics, data science, computer science, etc. 
    • Data analysts/data scientists 
    • Start-ups and scale-ups looking for data
  • Those with expertise in the field of sustainability and net zero emissions, including but not limited to:
    • Environmental/societal scientists
    • Urban planners
    • Policy makers  
    • Academics  
    • Net zero-focused nonprofits, charities, and social enterprises
  • Policy makers who would be interested in the outcome of the Challenge:  
    • Local government officials and employees
    • Government ministers and civil servants in environment and sustainability departments  
  • International organisations with sustainability by local governments as part of their mission.
  • Organisations and companies that provide services to local governments.

Learning tools for participants

Participants will have access to resources from members of the IDSP and the Open Data Institute, including: 

From Microsoft

From UK Power Networks

From the ODI 

  • Guide for data users on data licensing
  • ODI eLearning modules:
  • Guide on how to anonymise datasets for participants that want to contribute their own data
  • The Data Sharing Toolkit contains seven eLearning modules with supporting case studies, checklists, cheat sheets and guides.
  • The Data Landscape Playbook contains helpful tools and guidance for your data project.


We will be holding webinars in January to provide further information on some of the openly available sets that the partnership has made available, as well as a webinar on how to use openly available data before registration opens.

Prize for best submissions

The total prize pot for the Challenge is $100,000. The prize for the overall winner will be $50,000, with $30,000 and $20,000 going to the runners-up.

Evaluation Criteria

Entries must be novel and innovative, as perceived by our expert judges. Judges will be looking for the following: 

  • Impact – overall impact, breadth of impact on improving the environment and scale of potential progress. 
  • Use of data – teams must make use of at least one openly available dataset. Teams are also strongly encouraged to make use of the highlighted publicly available datasets in the Challenge, outlined above. Teams can make use of as many additional datasets as they wish, providing they have the right to do so. We strongly encourage the use of open datasets where possible but also support the legal use of commercial or personal data if beneficial. The quality of these datasets will also be used to determine the strength of participants entries. 
  • Quality and Replicability – e.g., how sound is the analysis being performed using the data and is it sufficiently open to be replicated and used by local governments in achieving their net zero goals.
  • Diversity – applications from teams and individuals from a range of diverse backgrounds and expertise are strongly encouraged. For example, participants could be from different backgrounds, ages, geographic locations, genders, abilities, and domains of expertise.  
  • Consultation – extent to which participants have consulted relevant communities that would be affected by the proposed solutions.
  • Alignment – to the Challenge questions. 
  • Collaboration – extent to which participants have collaborated with other participants, either by sharing insights or additional relevant datasets. 
  • Community contribution – amount the team is contributing back to the community, e.g., new or improved open data, open-source tools, models, etc.  


To register your interest and be notified when registration opens early next year, as well as details of upcoming webinars, please email with your full name, and what country/time zone you are based in.