Moving open data forward – the Benefits, Challenges and Opportunities of Open Data for Producers, Users and Leaders

May 8, 2024 by No Comments | Category Data, Digital, Digital Scotland

This blog has been written by Martin Macfie, Head of Open Data in the Digital Directorate’s Data Division, in which he discusses recent work to better understand the benefits, challenges and opportunities of Open Data.

What we’ve been doing

We need to be more strategic in the way we approach the publishing, messaging and culture around open data.  We want to maximise the impact and value of open data to better meet user needs, in line with the Public Service Reform Agenda, to improve outcomes for the people of Scotland. 

In the last year, we commissioned desk-based research, public workshops and interviews to understand the benefits, challenges and opportunities for open data in Scotland.   

This has informed an independent report on the current international and domestic position on open data which provides recommendations for what we should do next.  We’d like to thank Jack Lord and the team in Open Data Services for their work in leading the desk-based research and report, and Fractals Coop for their work in leading and running the workshops and interviews for the Scottish Government.

What does open data to mean to you

We ran four public workshops and held a number of interviews over summer 2023.  We had representation from government, local government and other public sector, academia, private sector and civil society at these events.  We asked participants what open data means to them; and what’s working well and not so well for them.

Outputs from workshops, grouped into themes

The 4 “waves” of open data

The workshops were used to supplement the desk-based research. Combined, these have uncovered many findings which have been incorporated in a draft report. For example the four waves of open data have been introduced:

The report indicates that whilst Scotland has “an open data by default” policy as prescribed in its Open Data Strategy , the complex nature and landscape means that in reality there is a purpose-driven approach to open data publishing.    

The report highlighted the key purposes where open data can be used to maximise value and impact. These include: 

  • Transparency, accountability and empowerment
  • Innovation and economic growth
  • Management and monitoring
  • Collaboration and coordination

Recommendations and Next Steps

There are 5 high-level recommendations from the research:

  1. Set out a vision that makes the case for open data.
  2. Change the narrative: acknowledge the scale of the challenge and that it is a long-term collaboration
  3. Create a realistic and transparent implementation strategy
  4. Set the direction and quality standards for open data publication
  5. Provide targeted technical guidance and support for data publishers and users

We are working with Open Data Services to finalise the report which we intend to publish on the Scottish Government website.  This will be an independent report produced by our contractors.  With the support from Open Data Services, we intend to draft a vision for open data.  This is likely to indicate what visible success is, what are the steps required to reach this point, and how do these tie in with the recommendations from the report. 

We have and intend to carry out more detailed stakeholder mapping.  An important part of our future plans is to test ideas and thinking with wider groups such as the “Better Data Community (Making Data Better, Smarter and More Open)”. They have been running a series of events to mark International Open Data Day earlier this year.  

We have found this work has enabled some invaluable discussions within our team. We are excited to take forward this work and start to better realise the impact and value of open data.

Related links:

Louise Meikleham, Senior Data Policy Officer in Data Division wrote about the foundational importance of open data and its role within Scotland’s Open Government Action Plan 2021-25.

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