News

New UK Data Service project on big data and household energy

Article dated: 4 November 2015

A team from the UK Data Service has been awarded funding from the ESRC and National Research Foundation, South Africa, under the ESRC/NRF International Centre Partnerships in 2015, to work with South Africa's DataFirst on big data infrastructure.

The project 'Smarter Household Energy Data: infrastructure for policy and planning' aims to strengthen data expertise and research partnerships between South Africa and the UK through the formation of a new network created to investigate access to, and the use of, household energy data for policymaking and planning. The project will focus on data infrastructure and will bring together data professionals, energy researchers and policymakers in both South Africa(SA) and the UK to address key policy challenges through shared scoping, planning and analysis of UK and SA household energy data.

Working with South Africa's DataFirst, a data service based at the University of Cape Town which is dedicated to making South African survey and administrative microdata available to researchers, the project will consider UK and SA energy consumption and the challenges of fuel poverty and demand reduction. The project is timely in considering both the current crisis in supply and demand for electricity in SA, particularly access to electricity by poorer communities, and the emerging awareness in SA of the importance of Big Data and data management to inform the development and implementation of social and economic policy.

Focusing on the longer-term innovation in data infrastructure to support policy and planning for household energy consumption, the project is of key importance for the developing country of SA, but the findings will also be relevant for more developed countries like the UK. The team will undertake knowledge exchange events to better understand the data needs for key research and policy questions and share best practice for technical data storage infrastructure and access to energy data sources. The project also aims to improve the quality of data available to SA researchers and policymakers, allowing more complex investigation of household energy use in the future.

Project director and lead investigator, Louise Corti said, "The availability of household energy is one the key challenges for developing countries, like South Africa. This project has the potential to help shape the way decisions are made by providing robust data infrastructure that can enable better insight into impacts of energy supply and usage on household behaviour, and the situation of individuals within households. I'm very excited about the potential impact this project could have and am delighted to be heading up our multi-national team. It's fantastic that we're able to partner with such research expertise in the UK and in South Africa and I'm looking forward to co-creating some great demonstrator projects plus an innovative training programme that will meet the needs tomorrows 'social data scientists' "

The project is running from October 2015 until Spring 2017. You can keep up to date on the progress of the project through the project web pages

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