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Increased demand for local government data
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The IS Data and Intelligence team has begun to see a huge increase in the amount of requests for local government data since investing resources into making it discoverable via internet search engines.

Data ‘discoverability’ (how easy it is to find) is often over looked, despite this being the first part of the F.A.I.R. principles of data (‘Findability’). This is the first part of any potential data user’s journey – and often their first big problem (this video explains more). If nobody has taken the responsibility to adequately explain what data exists and where it can be accessed in a standardised way, it can’t be found nor used.

The Scottish Spatial Data Infrastructure (SSDI) has been designed (by the Scottish Government) specifically for the purpose of making data easier to find. It is a platform that anyone within the data community can use to create metadata about their datasets. We helped run a workshop to demonstrate these capabilities to local government data staff in December 2020.

A clever aspect of the SSDI is that it has been ‘Search Engine Optimised’ and metadata records get ‘harvested’ into the UK-wide data.gov.uk. This means that datasets can be easily found via simple Google key word searches. Since the Improvement Service started using this facility, we’ve seen literally hundreds of organisations approach us for local government data.

We have also been able to link local authority metadata records to their constituent national dataset records of the same thing, enabling anyone to get a very quick and full understanding of all the data that exists (and wherever it can be accessed). Here’s an example for Tree Preservation Orders.

The SSDI hasn’t been systematically used by all of local government to date. However, in the advent of the COVID pandemic, we’re seeing a great need for this kind of intelligent signposting and directing of the data community (using structured metadata) to data they need to do their jobs. With the SSDI now able to handle metadata about non-spatial datasets, we would recommend that local government could and should look to start using it to make their data far more exposed and useful to the rest of the community.

The Data and Intelligence team can offer advice, guidance and resources to help with any aspects of local government data. Do get in touch at spatialhub@improvementservice.org.uk