Why we did this?
The value of opening up data is multi-layered, providing both economic and social value to policymakers, citizens, the development community (SMEs) and data providers. Savings are made in terms of time, money and efficiencies. Businesses are created. Democratic participation is increased by giving citizens and businesses access to public sector information.
What we did?
Following on from our work on the Make It Local Scotland project (more on this below), we worked on an open data programme, Open Data Scotland. This drew on our own experience from Make it Local and combined this with learning from the Code for Europe and Code for America programmes.
We created a collaborative project involving European local government partners as part of our Code for Europe Programme together with a small number of Scottish city and regional authorities, as well as created a network of developers who were integrated with the government authorities.
The programme supported the development of new digital services which solved real issues. These useful digital services were built on an ‘open’ basis, meaning they offered both open source content and digital frameworks, so they could be copied, adapted and brought to scale.
Open Data Scotland aimed to add social and economic value to communities, developers and local government through opening up data sets. The four Scottish local authorities - Edinburgh, East Lothian, Clackmannanshire and Aberdeen - tackled specific issues in their communities and tried to solve problems using digital technology. These could have been straight-forward issues for example like local travel and transport, tourism and leisure information; to ‘grittier’ issues like crime, health, youth unemployment.
The four technology developers, Alan Gardner, Andrew Sage, David Morisson and Rory Gianni, have now joined their local authority teams as Code for Europe fellows.
Make it Local Scotland
This programme aimed to show how local authorities can work with digital media companies to unlock their data and provide really useful apps and web services for their citizens. We invited Scottish councils to submit ideas for digital services powered by their own data sets, which had a practical focus for local residents.
Five Scottish councils were selected, including one joint project: Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Orkney Islands. Each received up to £25,000 in funding to develop their digital services, in partnership with a digital media company.
Here’s a look at the four projects to emerge from the Make it Local Scotland programme:
- Aberdeen City Council & Aberdeenshire Council created SmartJourney, a mobile-friendly website that helps the people of Aberdeenshire share and discover up-to-date local weather and travel information. It includes information on gritting routes, road and footpath conditions, weather forecasts and more, and also allows citizens to provide their own live updates, ensuring timely and detailed information. View the source code for SmartJourney
- City of Edinburgh Council created Edinburgh Outdoors, a new digital service that allows local communities and visitors to discover and enjoy Edinburgh’s parks and green spaces. Information on historic monuments, public toilets and play areas have been added to an interactive map, along with tips on outdoor activities, events, beautiful trees in the city, and more. Users can also add their own images and comments, while Android and iPhone apps help people find helpful info on the go. View the source code for Edinburgh Outdoors
- Glasgow City Council created Glasgow Gritting, a website which offers live real time information on road and pavement gritting services during the autumn and winter period. The service shows which routes have been gritted, when a street was last treated and info on priority gritting routes, using real-time data from GPS tracking equipment on gritting vehicles. View the source code to generate data and for content management.
- Orkney Islands Council developed Into Orkney, which brings together data about archaeological sites and monuments in the Orkney Islands, allowing users to explore and learn about Orkney’s heritage. The interactive service also allows users to add data such as updates on key monuments which are at risk from coastal erosion, sound files of place-names and photographic records, giving communities a central place to record their own history. View the open source code for Into Orkney
What did we learn?
Our review emphasises the need for an eco-system to be established. It's not simply about the data or the technology, it's about the culture shift required to support data being opened up and used to support civic life. Our thanks go to our many partners who made this possible.
We hope that these ideas will be useful not only to residents of these local authorities, but also to other councils who may wish to emulate these ideas. The data for the content has all been uploaded to data.gov.uk, while the code for the digital services is Open Source and freely available for anyone to use on GitHub, via the links above.
Our first Make it Local programme, run in England, resulted in the creation of three new services using data on libraries, land ownership and contact centres. Find out more about our first Make it Local projects.
We’ve also put together a Make it Local toolkit, offering 10 top tips for creating local services using open data.