Scottish Data Now
Tim Berners-Lee recently gave a short talk to TED, reporting back on a year of great progress since his 2009 cry of “Raw Data Now”. One of the big contributors to this has been the UK government via the data.gov.uk initiative, which I’m sure all readers of this blog are well aware of.
If you are from outside the UK (and for many Brits too), you might not be aware that the UK has a rather complicated system of government, where some responsibilities are handled centrally for the whole country and some are devolved to the Scottish government (and a different set of responsibilities to assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland). Anyway, it seems that data.gov.uk is one of those initiatives that more or less stops at the Scottish border. This is mainly because most of the departments publishing their data have responsibility for England and Wales, with an equivalent but separate Scottish department in charge once you are north of Hadrian’s Wall. Or something like that – it’s complicated!
The Scottish government publishes quite a few high quality datasets through its own websites and some of those are linked from data.gov.uk (for example the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation and Abstract of Scottish Agricultural Statistics, or the sheep census as I like to think of it: 7.5 million in 2007 for those who are interested) but the concerted effort for publishing more data, in particular Linked Data, seems to be lacking. And because I live and work in Scotland, I want the same benefits here that are starting to appear in other parts of the UK.
I wrote today to John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth in the Scottish government (he seemed like the most relevant person to ask), to encourage him to set up a similar initiative in Scotland – or to get the Scottish departments more actively involved in the existing UK scheme. Either way, it seems clear to me that this is something that can stimulate the high-tech economy, improve government efficiency through inter-departmental data re-use, and promote transparency and accountability of government. In other words it’s a Good Thing.
Scotland has a small but vibrant and growing web and digital media scene and we could do lots of great stuff with this. So we should start demanding our Scottish public data now!
We should also just start doing it and I’m currently working on a couple of examples to try to get the ball rolling and show what is possible.
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