Open Data Scotland: what have we been doing?
The Open Data Scotland team has been working with four local authorities in Scotland (Edinburgh and East Lothian, Aberdeen and Clackmannanshire), supporting them to utilise open data sets to create new digital public services.
We have appointed five ‘in Residence’ Fellowships - four developers who work on a one to one basis with a local authority and one designer who works across all four authorities. The ‘Fellowship’ model is one which has been used in projects such as Code for America, Code for Europe and Code for Africa - by importing in a developer to work alongside the local authority team, you bring in additional skills, a fresh perspective and a different way of working.
In effect, we are asking these Fellows to be change agents. This might seem like a big ask - no one individual can change the culture of public agencies, but each of the four local authorities and the Fellows have managed to achieve a great deal in the time so far.
It’s not simply about the front end apps they are creating; it’s about the culture shift. We wanted to prove that both the city authorities (who arguably have more resources and a head–start through local Hack and Code events) and the smallest local authorities (who have never worked in this area before) would be able to create an impact using open data sets.
This project has been about creating an infrastructure within local government for open data digital services. In this area, our achievements so far include:
- All the local authorities now have a data portal/data store - where the data sets from the local authority will be published and available for re-use freely.
- All have published or are working towards publishing an open data strategy - meaning that the issue of open data has been put firmly on the local government agenda and has been signed off by the senior staff/elected officials.
The apps in development are wide ranging and include to date (some are yet to be named and others are coming 'on stream'):
- Open Wifi Map - a list of all the public wifi hot spots
- Countryside App - an app which will promote East Lothian’s paths and countryside features and allow people to add their own data on the wildlife/plants
- Parking Pal - a mobile app which helps find the location of car parks in Aberdeen, their capacity and the current number of spaces available
- Sports/Activity App - an app which will help you find out what sports/exercises classes are available and their location. Users will be able to rate classes by a ‘sweat level' (e.g. yoga might be less sweaty than a spin class!)
- Edinburgh Stories - this app will allow individuals, schools and groups to add content about their memories of Edinburgh. Contributors will be able to collect, share, learn and expand on Edinburgh’s digital heritage.
- A one-week ‘fast hack’ is planned where the developer, the designer and council staff will show agile development in practice, focusing on the Waste Services department to create a number of widgets. Watch this space!
- Childcare App - an app which will allow you to find information about childcare activities and services in the local area
- Open Government Application - an engine for storing information about elected representatives
Our learning to date
- Design is as important as the coding - ideally we would have built in more design time/designer support
- Engaging with users/citizens along the way is integral
- The small, quick projects can be as useful as the larger scale projects - people want to know where the public loos, car parks and Wi-Fi hot spots are!
Although our developers are working individually with each local authority, they have also worked as a team on an informal basis and this is definitely to be recommended.
We also intend to share what we have learned on this programme through a ‘How to’ guide which will be ready by spring next year.