New open data: Game on! Table Tennis England publishes open data to expand its social appeal and bring people together through play
Table Tennis England publishes open data in a bid to reach more people wanting to get active, have fun and meet new people. As a sport for anyone who can ‘pick up a bat and play’ it’s inventing new ways to bring table tennis to the places people visit, work and socialise. Patrice John-Baptiste at OpenActive speaks with Jamie Gordon, Marketing Officer at Table Tennis England, about his vision to go open and go social.
Tell us a bit about Table Tennis England and what you do there?
We’re the National Governing Body for table tennis, responsible for promoting, administering and developing the sport. Our mission is to create and support opportunities for everyone to enjoy and achieve in table tennis and our vision is to get everyone talking about table tennis. I’ve been working for the company for around three years and during that time I have overseen the development and improvement of all of our digital platforms and channels.
What interested you to publish open data?
We collect a whole range of data that mostly goes to waste, when it could be being used by developers to signpost opportunities and get more people active and playing table tennis. We’re hoping it will remove one of the barriers of entry to our sport and get more people to pick up a bat.
“a dating website may wish to use our Ping! data as a potential meet-up location for couples.”
The great thing about table tennis is that it can be played by anyone, at anytime. With that in mind, we’re hoping that our dataset will be of use to not just developers building sporting platforms, but also any developer who works with community organisations. For example a dating website may wish to use our Ping! data as a potential meet-up location for couples.
Tell us about the data you have published?
So far we’ve published two datasets. The first is real-time data about the locations of outdoor, free to use tables, which are part of our Ping! Initiative — a table tennis project that places free ping pong tables in public spaces across England to get people playing. There’s more than 800 of these tables across the country and they tend to move about across each city, so it’s really important that people are able to find an accurate, up-to-date version of where each table is.
The second dataset provides location, facility and contact details for the 3500 table tennis clubs that we have on record. Clubs are the foundation of our sport, so the more people we can signpost towards them, the better.
Were there any challenges along the way?
We don’t have any in-house developers, so it’s always a challenge when new coding needs creating. However, the Open Active API standards developed by the Open Data Institute were very simple and easy to follow and it only took an external developer around three hours’ work, which is well worth the cost of their time.
How do you envision open data will impact the sport and physical activity industry?
Just as open data revolutionised how people book their holidays and travel, I’m hoping that it will do the same for the sports industry. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a single website you could go to and find your nearest sporting venues and hire them out?
We’re in the process of building a booking system for our clubs and facilities to use when hiring out their tables. As and when this is ready, we’ll be sure to open the data for developers. In the meantime there’s a lot of data cleansing needed with our existing clubs database.
At OpenActive we’re bringing together sports and physical activity organisations from across the sector to make data on what, where and when physical activity sessions happen, openly available through open data. Our ambition is to get the UK’s 25% of inactive people active through promoting use of open data across the sector. This data will enable organisations to develop new and existing services that keep pace with the customer’s digital expectations, and make it easier for people to find and participate in sessions that are right for them.
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