Open data can support sport's social impact - Minister

Sports Minister Mims Davies believes open data could play an important role in helping the sport and physical activity sector to address and solve “societal issues”.

This week Sport England announced it was awarding a further £1.5million of National Lottery funding to the Open Data Institute (ODI).

The investment will help the ODI to continue their work in the sport and physical activity sector through the OpenActive initiative. Since November 2016, 27 organisations have opened their data, resulting in more than 170,000 sport and physical activity sessions a month being made available online.

The overall objective is to resolve issues highlighted by a recent ComRes survey, commissioned by Sport England, which found that people find it twice as easy to order takeaway food online than to book a sport or fitness class.

Speaking at an event to announce the funding in London this week, the Sports Minister said: “If more organisations open up their data, more people can get active.

“This can help us solve societal issues. I want to issue a call to action to the whole sector.”

She added: “Sport has an immense power to bring about positive change. It makes people healthier and happier. It helps communities and individuals to thrive. And open data can be a key enabler here - helping us remove barriers that people face when they engage with sport.”

Sport England CEO Tim Hollingsworth called on sport and physical activity providers to commit to opening their data – in the same way other sectors have done, such as transport – by the end of the year.

“This is a real tipping point moment,” he said. “Now is the time for the whole sector to collaborate to reach millions more people, remove the barriers they face and supercharge the number of people getting active in England for the health of our nation.”

Sport and physical activity is playing an increasingly prominent role in helping to tackle a host of societal issues, ranging from inactivity and its related health issues, to deep-rooted social problems which require long-term, preventative measures such as youth violence and unemployment.


Sarah Mortiboys is manager of the Sport for Development Coalition, a group of 60 charities, funders and governing bodies dedicated to proving, and raising awareness of the social value of sport.

After attending the event, she told ConnectSport: “On behalf of the Coalition, we welcome and support this call for providers to open up their data.

“We know that increasing access to sporting opportunities, and therefore more people becoming active can only help to support a wide range of positive social outcomes.”

Providers are being urged to take the 'Active Digital Pledge’ which includes a commitment to support “consumer-focused digital innovation that helps people get active, with a particular focus on under-represented groups”.

Click here to take the #ActiveDigital Pledge.