I recently spent a couple of hours throwing together a list of resources about open data for an informal tutorial targeted at undergraduate students involved in the Smart Data Hack. Part of my input was a list of Scottish public data and vocabularies compiled in 2010 by Peter Winstanley.
Since then, I’ve been wondering about what kind of strategy would make sense in Scotland for helping people discover open government data (OGD). Clearly, one option would be to build a Scottish counterpart of http://data.gov.uk. There are both pros and cons to this. Even if all Scottish OGD were already available on data.gov.uk, there might well be psychological and practical benefits to having a single location that would provide a comprehensive overview of data about Scotland. One the other hand, building something as sophisticated and powerful as data.gov.uk would require considerable resources, and one might argue that the costs would outweigh the “me too” benefits.
A handful of local authorities in Scotland are currently in the process of developing their own open data strategies, and a recurrent issue is the asset inventory question: What data do we currently hold, and how much of it could be published as open data? Let’s transpose this question to the national level: How many public bodies are there in Scotland which hold data that could be published as OGD? I suspect that nobody has a good answer to this question yet. But here’s a starting point. According to Annex C of the admirable document Scotland’s Digital Future: Delivery of Public Services (2013), there are 144 bodies in the ‘Public bodies landscape’. These include organisations such as Historic Scotland, Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, sportscotland, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Quality Meat Scotland, Standards Commission for Scotland and the 14 regional NHS Boards. However, the list doesn’t include the 32 elected councils or the 19 higher education institutions. So let’s say approximately 200 public sector bodies; what a boost to Scotland it would be if even one quarter of these organisations followed Open Glasgow in adopting an ‘open by default’ policy for their data.
Let’s return to the question of whether we should try to build our very own data.gov.scot. A more lightweight alternative is to let Scotland’s public bodies build their own data portals, and instead provide a national list of all such sites. In this spirit, I’ve made a start in building a Scotland-wide inventory of open data sites, focussing on those that collect a number of datasets and publish them in some reasonable approximation of the open definition of open data. The HTML page is actually generated automatically from a CSV file that is stored on GitHub. Now, I’d love it if you’d tell me that my list is hopelessly inadequate because I’ve omitted X, Y and Z. If you are sufficiently nerdy, you could fork the okfnscot repository, update the CSV file, and send me a pull request. Or even more easily, submit an issue. Or just drop me an email: okfnscot [AT] gmail.com.