Guest post: Increasing the availability and usability of Scottish Government data

Getting the bus to the other side of Edinburgh for my Saturday morning game of football used to be frustrating experience. I’d step outside, see the bus go past at the end of the street, and have to wait for ages in the cold for the next one. This seemed to happen every week!

But then Lothian buses opened up their data and some clever person built an app that shows the time until the next bus. Now I have a quick look at my phone and when my bus is a few minutes away I walk to the stop. No more waiting ages in the cold, wind and rain for me.

We want to do a similar thing with the data behind Scottish Official Statistics. By making the data easier to use and access we hope that people will use it in innovative ways to generate new insights, and greater impact of data and evidence in decisions. This will help to deliver high quality efficient public services that are responsive to local people's needs.

As part of our work to increase the availability and usability of Scottish Government data, we commissioned Swirrl to work with us. They have built a pilot website for us that includes a showcase of Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation data and a tutorial using data about schools. Please take a look at this and feel free to make use of the data. One of the aims of this pilot is to see what others are able to do with our data when we make it available in this way so I would encourage you to experiment with the data, encourage others to do so, and let us know how you get on. The pilot will run for a year.

Swirrl have also written a report which includes information and advice about how Scottish Government could apply an Open Data approach.

The learning from this work will inform our plans for our Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics system (SNS). SNS provides access to a lot of the data behind Scottish Official Statistics at smaller geographies than are usually included in the Official Statistics Bulletins, which usually focus on headline national results. There are literally thousands of different indicators covering a wide range of topics including crime, education, health and housing. We are committed to improving SNS to make the data easier to find and use.

If you’d like to contact us please call 0131 244 0442 or email [email protected]

Gregor Boyd is a statistician for the Scottish Government.