A quick google search confirms that, according to most people, I belong to ‘Generation Z’. Otherwise known as ‘Zoomers’, we are renowned for being ‘tech-addicted’, ‘tech-native’ and ‘tech-savvy’. For me, this couldn’t be further from the truth. It is true, however, that I belong to the ONS’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) team.
As one of the newest members of the team I was asked to create my own Open SDG platform. Open SDG is an open source, free-to-reuse platform for managing and publishing data and statistics related to the Sustainable Development Goals.
By following the Open SDG tutorials, which are, much like the platform itself, readily available and free to use, I was successful in creating my own platform. I found that the guidance transformed creating a platform from an intimidating ask into an achievable afternoon activity.
Introducing the Open SDG tutorials
The Open SDG tutorials walk you through the creation, customisation and continuation of your platform without the need for any prior knowledge.
When I first sat down to create my platform, I was nervous that I wouldn’t understand the language used in the tutorials. I quickly realised that all technical terminology is explained on a need-to-know basis. This gave me an insight into the creation of my platform without overwhelming me with unnecessary information. The tutorials follow a logical structure making it easy to remain focused. Additionally, the availability of both written and narrated video guidance caters for a broad audience, including visual learners like myself.
Before I delve into the details of creating my own Open SDG platform, it is important to note that I do not consider myself to be technically minded. Last week my housemate Paul (a fellow Zoomer and self-appointed ‘tech wizard’) had to settle yet another heated argument between myself and Alexa. ‘She really doesn’t like me’ I complained. ‘She is a robot’ was his exasperated response ‘she doesn’t like anyone’. This about sums up my awkward relationship with technology, it doesn’t like me, and I don’t really like it.
How exactly then, did I create my own Open SDG platform?
Creating my Open SDG platform
To create an Open SDG platform, I needed to create a GitHub account. GitHub is a repository hosting service, or as I explained to an ever-bemused Paul that evening, ‘where my platform lives’. This was no different to creating any other online account.
The first step (after logging in to GitHub) was to create a ‘site repository’ and a ‘data repository’. I imagined these as the archives of a library, a space for the relevant datasets to be managed and stored before being reported on the platform, and a place for any changes made to those data sets to be recorded. Following along with the video tutorial and the links included in the written guidance, I used pre-existing templates to create both repositories. The use of templates within the Open SDG tutorials helped to reduce the amount of time needed to create my platform.
GitHub then performed its automatic ‘builds’ (reading, processing and actioning the behind-the-scenes code) which took no longer than 5 minutes. Once completed I needed to find my ‘data service’ and my ‘site’. This was as simple as finding, following and bookmarking a link.
For the last step I needed to connect my site to my data service. Admittedly, I had to read this section of the guidance twice but by following along with the video tutorial I was confident I had done everything correctly.
I took a deep breath, refreshed my screen, and there it was, not in black and white, but in multi-colour, my Open SDG platform.
In total I spent 15 minutes actively creating my platform. The rest of my afternoon was spent reading the guidance, watching the video tutorials and exploring examples of other Open SDG platforms. Reading, following along with, and most importantly, understanding the Open SDG tutorials gave this technophobe an accessible insight into the world of open-source platforms. The simplicity and multi-modality of the guidance took something intimidating and turned it into something achievable, but most importantly it gave me the opportunity to say:
‘Move over Paul, there’s only room for one tech wizard in this house.’