For many open data warriors the journey starts with open data workshops and training programmes.
In 2015/2016 Scotland piloted a pioneering open data training series for all public sector organisations. This workshop series was globally the first of its kind, carried out on behalf of the Scottish Government.
Although the pilot series came to an end in September 2016, the job is far from complete. When it comes to open data training, we say more is more!
The goal of targeting the public sector with open data training is to equip front-line public sector warriors with the necessary skills and knowledge to tackle current and future challenges, where appropriate, with a data forward approach. The vision is to enable public sector organisations to take advantage and to fully utilise and unlock the value of their data, both open and closed.
Why we need more open data training?
The need for more data and open data training, skills and knowledge, especially in the public sector, is real.
NESTA’s recent policy recommendations in their Wise Council report state that the Government Digital Service (GDS) should allocate £4m, which is less than 1% of its £450m budget, to embed data scientists in local councils to help sift their data goldmines and improve services.
The hope is that an embedded data science programme could make it easier to:
- share intangible skills and knowledge needed to manage the internal culture of organisations,
- build relationships,
- increase knowledge about data sharing and information governance,
- improve communication,
- champion the work to data-sceptic stakeholders.
In a new report - Understanding, Demystifying and Addressing the UK’s Big Data Skills Gap - techUK has identified big data and data analytics as a key element to the future of the UK’s Digital Economy. In what is called ‘the big data revolution’, they expect big data to create 157,000 additional jobs and add £241 billion to UK GDP by 2020. Some of which will, undoubtedly be in the public sector.
Public sector is the first re-user of its’ own data - the direct market size of open data is expected to be 55.3bn EUR for the EU 28+. Between 2016 and 2020, the market size is expected to increase to a value of 75.7bn EUR in 2020. Public administration is by far the sector that will gain the most from opening up data, with a value of 22bn EUR in 2020. (Source)
The overall benefit and impact of open data training courses, and programmes is that they empower front-line public sector teams to use and reuse their own data, while at the same time furthering data publication within these organisations.
We believe that with the skills and a greater understanding of the power of data science and data analytics comes better data stewardship, a greater push from public sector organisations to exploit the benefits of data thus giving an impetus to open data publishing as well.
Global efforts to combat the data skills gap in the public sector
IDA (Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore) launched a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on data science and analytics in 2015 and the class attracted more than 350 registrations from both the private and public sector within a month.
New York (face2face): in 2015, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) hired data analysts to teach public servants how to use New York City open data. In doing so, they trained employees to consume their own data and use it make decisions and taught them how to be responsible data stewards when publishing open data for others’ consumption.
Australian government launched APS (Australian Public Service) Program to address data skills shortage in the public sector.
Chicago University’s Data Science for Social Good programme pairs data science fellows from around the world with social sector organisations. They work in teams of three or four to tackle data-intensive, high impact problems in education, public safety and health, criminal justice, city operations, environmental issues and social services.
Proof of concept
Benefits of basic (open) data science skills in the public sector:
- Greater Manchester has published data, which they can now easily use internally. They are potentially saving £8.5 million a year by reusing their own data (Source).
- In Carlisle, publication of real-time business rates has significantly reduced the number of Freedom of Information requests, improving the process for local businesses and saving the council up to £15,000 annually. (2015, Source)
- Windsor and Maidenhead Council decided to publish real-time data on energy use in public buildings in 2015, which helped them to cut their energy bills by 16%. (2015, Source)
- Cambridgeshire, where a cross-county data sharing warehouse was created, bringing together 24 data sets from five district councils. The platform was used to identify social housing fraud. Address data was crucial in this process as it provided a standard property address with which to link all records. This initiative has detected approximately 80 cases of fraud, at an estimated value of between £0.8 million - £1.7 million (2016, Source)
Where do I sign up?
The aim of our current and future courses is to address the open data skills gap that currently exists in the public, private and 3rd sector and, at the same time, foster the open data ecosystem across both Scotland and the UK.
If offline workshops are not your thing, there are a number of online courses and books, with various levels of interaction and engagement you can choose from.
- European Data Portal e-learning programme.
- EdX by TU Delft - Open Government
- Local Government Association’s online open data publishing course:
Looking for something around data science? Here is a list of a 100 free DataScience books