All posts by The Data Lab

The Growing Opportunity in Open Data for Scotland

Open data has proven time and time again to be one of our most precious sources of information and insight that has largely been untapped. But why is this so? It has come about for several reasons, largely lying with individuals not knowing its availability, the difficulty in accessing it and sometimes even the impossibility! Raising awareness of its opportunity and the processes it can be used for is something that must be done in communities all over the world to gain advantage of this useful commodity. Open data, especially relating to government issues, can provide great insights into society and culture. With the creativity in the world today and the vast knowledge, interest and experience individuals have, releasing data can prove beneficial when in the right hands. Many questions that understaffed departments in councils have, could be answered by someone with an interest in testing their data skills using an open data set at home. Working together can bring about many unforeseen benefits if we all seek a common goal of making products and services better for everyone.

Who are we?

The Data Lab is an innovation centre set up by the Scottish Government to help Scottish businesses seize the growing opportunity that is data science. The Data Lab carries out a wide range of activities. It’s three main focuses are in collaborative innovation, skills and talent, and community building. Collaborative innovation involves setting up projects with companies or public sector organisations in collaboration with Scottish universities which will add financial and social value to the Scottish ecosystem. These projects are wide ranging and can be viewed on our website here. One example of an open data project we worked on in the past is openSIMD(Scottish Index of Multiple Depravation). openSIMD makes the calculation steps between the indicator data and the final SIMD measure completely transparent and open to scrutiny – no black box any more. It is a bit of R code along with documentation and data, which lets you calculate SIMD16 for yourself while making any changes you want. More details here. Our skills and talent focus is on creating the next wave of data scientists. We fund over 100 MSc students each year, and several PhD students also. Along with this we carry out executive education courses and MOOCs. For more info on any of these please click here.

Why are we getting involved?

Our community building focus is all about creating an ecosystem of interconnected data scientists in Scotland. This involves meetups, workshops and our annual festival of data innovation in March, DataFest. During DataFest this year we are hosting Scotland’s first technical data science conference, DataTech, which will shine a light on data innovation with a focus on the back end. If you want to get involved and even submit your own speaker proposal (perhaps around open data!) more info can be found here. As part of our wider community building strategy we support external events who promote data and the culture surrounding it. For this reason, we could not say no to sponsoring an event as progressive as Open Data Camp. It’s promotion of open data is critical in creating a transparent society where we as citizens could potentially have a greater impact on our locale, for example with the release of traffic data, figuring out how to maximise the use of public transport at peak times. Through its very intriguing unconference style blueprint, it will make you rethink how open data is used and how you can use it more often and to a greater shared benefit. Along with this it offers a unique opportunity to meet with like-minded individuals to share ideas, make new pals or even start some personal projects together!

Why should you get involved?

The true power of this event is in the people it brings together. With you the event is a lot stronger than without you. One of the core ideologies around the unconference style is that the people who come are the best people that could have come. You get to make it as engaging and productive as you want it to be. Unfortunately tickets have all sold out, but there may be some cancellations nearer the day. Be sure to take this opportunity to get involved in an event that not all cities have the chance of hosting. The team in Aberdeen are doing fantastic work in raising the profile of open data. Showing your interest through involvement is a great way for them to know that their hard work is paying off and paving an exciting path for the future. We’re delighted to be sponsoring Open Data Camp Aberdeen and look forward to a really exciting few days working with open data!