Tech 100: 'There are many open data opportunities – the challenge is to be ready to realise these'

Written by Sally Kerr on 16 December 2016 in Comment

Sally Kerr, digital innovation manager at City of Edinburgh Council, on the opportunities opening up data presents

Sally Kerr - Sally Kerr

Open data as a movement has been evolving for years but is still finding its feet in Scotland. There is a lot of development in the public sector at the moment in terms of wider data awareness and the need for data scientists, but it’s crucial to understand that open data is central to realising data potential.  

The Scottish Government’s open data strategy has led to many organisations developing publication plans and publishing for the first time, and the current data cluster project in the Scottish Cities Alliance will deliver learning, case studies and a maturity model that can be used nationally.

There’s an open culture developing not just in Edinburgh but across Scotland. Opportunities are being realised with academic, business and third sector partners to build larger open data sets to inform thinking and find improvements for health, learning and living.


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Whilst there is still work to do around sharing of personal and sensitive data, city strategy can benefit from open data that is easily available, such as Edinburgh’s cycle counters data used both for student learning and to inform future route planning.

For the City of Edinburgh Council, 2017 is shaping up to be a year where a lot of early engagement and innovation is coming to fruition. Using open data to resolve city issues, build case studies and deliver projects and events such as Edinburgh Collected and the 2015 open data national conference has built wider understanding.

External city and internal council change have moved data centre stage. There is now wider awareness of the potential opportunities of data re-use, analysis and prediction to help shape services to better meet citizen needs, inform local and city planning, and support business growth, enabling the city’s data to be used by citizens every day to make their lives easier.   

In fact, there are many open data opportunities – the challenge is to be ready to realise these by making sure data is easy to access and organisations understand the potential. Momentum is building with more and more recognition of the value of sharing and ‘opening up’ data.

It is challenging to do this and yet not to do it would be worse. We need to look at our data in a different way, realising that we don’t know all of its potential – but someone else will. These unknowns are what makes open data valuable. 

Sally Kerr is digital innovation manager at City of Edinburgh Council 

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