Scottish Cities Alliance

Opening up datasets to drive innovation across Scotland’s seven cities.

This interview is the product of an interview with Doug Young (Cluster Coordinator, Scottish Cities Alliance).

Key facts

Service providers: Datopian

Client: Scottish Cities Alliance

Service: establishment of data portals based on CKAN; management and provision of CKAN instances

Period: 2017 – ongoing

Context

The Scottish Cities Alliance is a collaboration between Scotland’s seven cities – Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth and Stirling – and the Scottish government to attract external investments. The Alliance has compiled a ‘pitch book’ of £7.5 billion investor-ready opportunities across the seven cities. A large portion of these investments (£60 million, including £25 million of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) support) is going into the Smart Cities Scotland project. This aims to use new technologies to accelerate and transform the delivery of city services. One of the projects being delivered through the ERDF Programme, ‘Scotland’s 8th City – the Smart City’, is Open data.

The situation

Open Data forms the backbone of Smart Cities Scotland. Publishing open data is a requirement for all smart cities projects, from smart waste to intelligent street lighting. However, only two of the seven cities had an open data platform at the start of the Smart Cities Scotland project. Instead of the other cities independently procuring their own platforms, it was decided that the cities should share a common platform. 

The criteria

The requirement was for an open data portal that would open up datasets to drive innovation. Opening up data was also an important part of the alliance’s transparency initiative. They were looking specifically at open-source options, as it made sense to use open tools to fortify a program of openness. This is a narrative we often come across with EU clients.

The solution

On joining the ‘Open & Agile Smart Cities Network’, Smart Cities Scotland received the recommendation that they should be publishing this open data on a CKAN platform. In particular, they were attracted by CKAN’s open-source nature, as this would allow our client greater flexibility and customisation than other, proprietary alternatives. Many competitors were offering more traditional, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models. Scottish Cities also enjoyed the possibility of the more collaborative experience offered by Datopian.

Outcomes

Some datasets live on the portal have received many thousands of views with very little promotion. A particularly popular dataset has been on school catchment areas, data which wasn’t publicly available before the portal. Many parents have been using it when moving house to see what schools would be options for their children.

Another surprisingly popular dataset has been on cemetery data from the city of Sterling. This dataset, which contains information on records of burial plots, has led to many people getting in touch with the local council to notify them of inaccuracies. In this sense, the open data portal has also allowed the authorities to improve the quality of their existing data. Often, there’s a tendency within government and enterprise to only publish data of perfect quality; however, this example shows, importantly, that some new inputs can only come through publishing. 

What’s next?

Mobile working, including the development and deployment of mobile applications enabling out-of-office access and updating of data from business systems, enabling operating efficiencies and enhancing service quality.

Smart Infrastructure projects using an ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) approach, connecting devices to generate and improve data to aid councils and partners to reduce energy us-age, improve reporting and service delivery, and inform data-driven decision making.