Local governments across Scotland, like elsewhere, were at the forefront of the rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gathering information, collecting evidence, and generating intelligence have been central to how local authorities responded to the COVID-19 crisis. In turn, this has put the spotlight on data, prompting the following questions: how have local authorities identified and handled arising data needs?; how they have used and analysed data?; what related challenges have they encountered?; what innovation opportunities have they pursued?

In response, the Urban Big Data Centre carried out an in-depth analysis of data engagements by Scottish local authorities between autumn 2020 and spring 2021.

The research was developed in partnership with the Digital Office for Scottish Local Government.

Report downloads

Executive summary Download (PDF 0.2MB)
Recommendations for policy/practice Download (PDF 0.2MB)
Full report Download (PDF 2.88MB)

Aims and objectives

This project was guided by the following four objectives:

  • To analyse existing and emerging data uses, capabilities and needs of Scottish local authorities;
  • To investigate whether local government’s responses to the pandemic have reshaped data governance, strengthened existing collaborations, or generated new data networks;
  • To identify emerging opportunities for public data collaborations and citizen engagement;
  • To examine whether data applications and practices informed decision-making and improved outcomes concerning the management of COVID-19.

The research was based on a triangulated design combining quantitative methods (survey) with qualitative methods (focus groups; interviews). In total, 31 out of 32 Scottish local authorities participated in the research, alongside other stakeholders (NHS NSS Scotland, Police Scotland, Scottish Government, third sector organisations).


The resulting report (PDF 2.88MB) comprises 15 key findings, and related recommendations for policy and practice, under four overarching themes:

  • Rapid response and innovation, with a focus on public sector data
  • Existing challenges amplified
  • Growing demand for cross-sectoral data sharing
  • Opportunities for joined-up data practices in the public interest

The report has featured in several media (see below), including Local Government (UK) and Cities Today (global).

We have been invited to present the findings at a smart cities roundtable hosted by the European Commission and a Cities Today Institute webinar on 'Data Driven Economic Recovery Beyond COVID-19' in European cities.

Report launch event

At this event on 27 May 2021, Dr Justine Gangneux and Prof Simon Joss, the report authors, presented the findings and outlined the recommendations for policy and practice. Watch the full presentation below.

Related resources:

In the press


Leads: Dr Justine Gangneux, Professor Simon Joss