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By GreaterSport | 30 April 2019 | TAGS: research, Physical Activity, open data

An ambitious data sharing scheme will give residents across Greater Manchester access to thousands of fitness classes and sports facilities at the touch of a button.

GM Active, which manages the bulk of public leisure facilities across the borough, has pledged to open their session opportunity data by the end of 2019. This will enable residents to easily access more than 10,000 activities offered across the city-region – whether it’s swimming sessions in Stockport, a badminton court at the velodrome, or a town centre Zumba class.

The announcement, which will be a UK first, comes after Sport England revealed that it’s more than twice as easy to book a holiday online as it is to book a sport or fitness class online.

GM Active hopes that by making it easier for residents to to find local opportunities to be active, it will lead to an increase in activity levels across the entire city-region.

It will also help tackle the misperception that there is a lack of good facilities in the area, after an independent survey conducted by Britain Thinks, on behalf of GM Moving, showed only a third (37%) of inactive residents in Greater Manchester believe they have good access to facilities.

In addition, two thirds (67%) of respondents said they want to be more active.

The ambitious scheme would see GM Active’s data shared, becoming the first regional collective to commit to the plan. They will join organisations such as British Cycling, England Netball and England Athletics, who have already opened their data.

The news comes as the Minister for Sport and Civil Society, Mims Davies, calls on the sport and physical activity sector to embrace the important role that digital innovation can play as we strive to get the population more active. She challenged the sector to commit to the agenda, and open their opportunity data by the end of 2019 to help make it easier for people to be active.

Greater Manchester aims to be one of the best places in the world for developing and harnessing digital technology, so we are responding to the Minister’s call today by announcing that GM Active, the 12 leisure and community organisations who manage the bulk of the publicly owned leisure and physical activity assets in the region, are committing to opening their data in 2019 and pioneering the digital transformation of the sector.

Pete Burt, Chair of GM Active says:
“Our ambition at GM Active is to change lives and get more people physically active. By opening our leisure session data it will make it easier for anyone to search over 10,000 classes, sessions and activities that are available every week to find the right solution at the right time and place for them.

“We are passionate about being the first region to enable this digital transformation for our 2.8m residents so we can reach our goal of 75% of our population being active. By opening up our data, campaigns like This Girl Can and Change for Life can signpost to tens of thousands of opportunities making it simple and easy for everyone to get moving in Greater Manchester delivering our vision of healthier and happier communities.”

It has also been announced by Minister for Sport Mims Davies today that Sport England has invested a further £1.5 million National Lottery funds to the Open Data Institute for the continued delivery of OpenActive - an innovative programme which gives sport and physical activity providers the tools, training and support they need to open up their data.

Richard Norris, OpenActive Programme Lead, The Open Data Institute

“It is fantastic to see the support for OpenActive across Greater Manchester. The range of organisations that are making it easier for people to find and book physical activity opportunities is a great step forward for the industry”.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester comments:

“The innovative leadership shown by GM Active to be the first regional collective of leisure providers to commit to open their activity data cements our ambition to make Greater Manchester the most active city-region in the UK.

“Opening our leisure centre session data will put us ahead of the game and gives us a remarkable opportunity to innovate, to create a smart digital future fusing technology with communities and places.

“I don’t want Greater Manchester to be just a smart city – I want it to be the smartest city that improves health outcomes for people and changes lives which today’s commitment will help us achieve.”

By opening data it will be easier for health professionals to signpost to opportunities for their patients to move more. Physical activity in medical terms is often referred to as the ‘miracle drug’ to support improved health and wellbeing.

Dr Sohail Munshi BEM, Chief Medical Officer for Manchester’s Local Care Organisation (MLCO) commented;
“As a grass roots GP in East Manchester I am surrounded by world class sporting facilities but unfortunately high levels of inactivity amongst both adults and children prevail. GPs are able to provide patients with the confidence in their capabilities and the motivation to get active, however there is no digital resource of opportunities to be active locally. This is where open data can play a vital role in helping to arm GPs with the tools needed to improve the health and wellbeing of our patients.

Already here in Manchester, there are exciting plans in place between ourselves, Manchester City Council and Manchester City Football Club, to use a data-driven approach to improve both activity levels and wider health and wellbeing outcomes for our residents.”

Greater Manchester has always been a pioneer city region with visions to be both the most active region, and one of the best places in the world for developing and harnessing digital technology. This announcement brings these visions together supporting the region’s strategy of being an open, connected and an innovative city region.

Patricia Keating, Director at Tech Manchester / UKFast adds:“Greater Manchester is a world-leader in innovation and delivering digital services. Open data projects like Open Active reveal great opportunities for local SMEs to build new applications that benefit Greater Manchester residents and enable greater participation in physical activities.

“There's a massive opportunity for tech businesses across Greater Manchester to unlock the potential insights within this treasure trove of data and open up some significant commercial opportunities.

“The approach of GM Active in engaging with and energising both the public and private sector is fantastic to see. A truly collaborative approach is needed to get Greater Manchester moving and Open Active is an incredibly progressive step towards that goal.”

Sara Tomkins, Chief Executive GreaterSport says:

“With our latest research showing that Greater Manchester residents want to be more active but don’t know how, this commitment could not come at a better time. Opening this data will make it as easy as booking an Uber or searching for a flight and will provide thousands of local opportunities for our residents to move more, helping people to becomehappier and healthier and support Greater Manchester to reach our 2 million moving ambition by 2021.”

The map below highlights some of the 87 leisure and sports facilities GM Active manage that will open their data to offer 10,000 moving opportunities a week.

If more sport and physical activity providers want to join Greater Manchester’s #ActiveDigital Pledge, then you can find out more here.

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