Open Government action plan 2021 to 2025 - commitment 3: data and digital commitment

Overview of the data and digital commitment, including milestones and their co-creation process, alongside progress reports submitted throughout the action plan.

This document is part of a collection

Commitment overview

Commitment title

Supporting government openness, transparency and empowerment through open data.


Start date November 2021, end date December 2025

Lead implementing directorate

Digital Directorate

Civil society stakeholders

  • Open Data Services Co-operative


Scotland's Digital Strategy sets our ambition to be a data-driven nation. We value the transformational role that data can play in increasing transparency, empowering communities, transforming products and services, fuelling innovation and improving outcomes.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of data in saving time, money and lives. Publishing and internal sharing of open data enables efficiency gains, cost savings and service improvement. We want to make more of our data available openly and make public sector data easy to find. People, businesses and developers can use open data to create products for decision making at a variety of levels.

The data we publish must be accessible and meet users' needs, provide insight and support decision making. Different audiences have different needs. Our approach must be informed by an understanding of these needs and directed towards supporting outcomes, lessening the burden of data use and reuse.

We need to find a way of connecting with users who are not engaged with data, by considering equalities and skills. We recognise the value of supporting other Open Government themes through data; e.g. people being empowered to use data to understand and make decisions to reduce their impact on global warming.

The way public services make decisions using data is as important as the data they publish. This includes the use of trustworthy, ethical and inclusive Artificial Intelligence (AI), as outlined in Scotland's AI Strategy.

Status Quo

Scottish public bodies publish a wide variety of data, much of it in reusable formats. We know that this is highly valued by many users and that we have an engaged and energetic community of users.

We also know that many people cannot find the data they are looking for. In some cases, they do not know what data exists and how the data is defined and described. This means that they cannot easily use and reuse data to help them make informed decisions. We know that to create value for communities and businesses the data must be relatable to create insight, but many may lack the skills and confidence to take action.

We also know that people find some open data platforms difficult to use - their skill level or needs are unmet. We acknowledge that people often cannot adequately access data to inform or answer the questions they have.

Reducing the amount of time people spend trying to find the data will release more time to help answer some of our nation's biggest questions. This will aid decision making on a number of challenges that Scotland is tackling.

There are both varying levels of data maturity and data literacy across organisations who produce data. These differences can create organisational barriers to opening up data.

Many people are unaware of or unclear on the use of AI in the Scottish public sector. Developing an AI algorithm register will allow people to understand and influence public sector applications of AI, and help earn their trust, which is essential to the delivery of Scotland's AI strategy.


Over the four years of the plan, we’ll apply an enabling methodology to develop open data infrastructure and share examples of the value generated from use cases across a series of thematic areas to support plan commitments, including:

  • discovery – of current open data landscape and standards; learn from other administrations
  • user needs – stakeholder identification, develop communications channels, understand needs
  • identify and Share Use Cases - share value from real-life use cases
  • commit to continuous Improvement – ongoing feedback
  • data needs – support to create the connection between data users and producers, so that data are findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable

We will:

  1. Open up data relevant to other Open Government themes, such as key climate change datasets used by government for modelling and reporting, data on public transport and public sector expenditure
  2. Run a CivTech challenge to evaluate if technology can make public sector data easy to find, assess outcomes and set out the way forward
  3. Set up the Data Transformation Framework (DTF) stating what “good data” looks like and the process by which organisations can improve: this focuses on opportunity for organisations to improve data maturity, data literacy and adoption of standards, through collaboration and engagement with local government and other public sector bodies, to be useful for civil society
  4. Review the front end of our official statistics open data publishing platform,
  5. Increase the amount of Scottish public sector open data being published, through collaborations such as the Data Standards and Open Data Community of Practice
  6. Develop a public register of AI algorithms

Initial milestones 

(Milestones will be updated accordingly)


  • make initial steps with CivTech challenge on finding data.  We plan to engage with civil society around findability of data as part of this challenge
  • Pilot Data Maturity Pathways project which will guide six public sector organisations through an end to end journey which:
    • defines their objectives for data in line with their business strategy and priorities
    • builds better understanding of the components required for maturity pathways for the DTF

User needs

  • user research to inform user journeys on - and agree next steps on improvements for  
  • agree and establish communications channels and understand user needs. This includes setting up the Data Standards and Open Data Community of Practice
  • make initial steps on CivTech challenge on what data people are looking for through the finding public sector data challenge

Identify and share use cases

  • identify thematic areas – such climate change and public transport and financial transparency
  • we plan to take an initial focus on greenhouse gas emissions datasets and commit to make more of these data and modelling available in an open and reusable format. We will review regularly with Civil Society progress and scope

Longer term activities (4 year plan, to December 2025) 

As this will be an iterative process, we have only been specific for Year 1 of the plan.   We would instead wish to review and develop further after year 1 of the plan, when we have a better sense of progress and the direction of travel. 

Activities we will definitely be participating in in Year 2 and beyond include:

  • development of AI algorithmic register
  • further development of Data Transformation Framework
  • further development of positive collaborations with others such as CoSLA (Local authority data taskforce) and the Data and Intelligence Network to build the culture of open and transparent use of data

How the commitment will contribute to solving the problem described above

Activity 1

  • increase number of useful open datasets to help people better understand and make decisions on the climate emergency and public transport, health and social care and the flow of public money in Scotland
  • present these datasets in a useful format

Activity 2

  • people able to search for and discover the public sector data they need using natural language
  • data are discoverable, both from portals and websites
  • we can identify gaps in the data we publish, based on user searches

Activity 3

  • improve and enable data reuse in the Scottish Public Sector
  • develop the DTF, outlining realistic and measurable maturity stages, setting out what "good data" looks like and the process by which organisations can improve.
  • identify a Data Maturity Assessment model which will help Public Sector organisations both understand their current data status and plan steps for data improvement.

Activity 4

Activity 5

  • more public sector datasets being published in an open format
  • sustained positive collaboration amongst public sector bodies to open up their datasets; using the Data Standards and Open Data Community of Practice and other routes
  • use cases where opening up access to data empowers people to answer questions, make decisions and drive improvements

Activity 6

  • the public has understanding and agency over how AI is used to help make decisions
  • the Scottish Government and partners can develop public trust, so AI can benefit society, economy and public services
  • constructive dialogue between people and policy makers, developers and users of AI systems and processes in the public sector; contributing to improved design and implementation of AI

Open Government Partnership value this commitment is relevant to

  • access to Information
  • technology and innovation for transparency and accountability
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