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CKAN...enabling open data

CKAN is a data management tool that allows you to manage and publish data. An open source tool, it’s currently being used by big open data players such as data.gov, data.gov.uk and data.gov.au.

Alfred D 17 April 2017

Open source, open data

I’ve always been a keen advocate of open data and open source so CKAN is right up my alley, combining these two great features...an open source tool that uses open data to deliver tangible benefits. Sounds like a win-win, right?

After the recent DrupalGov event in Canberra (and winning the tender for data.vic.gov.au), CKAN was on my radar again, big-time.

What is CKAN?

CKAN is an open source data management tool that allows you to manage and publish data for use in apps and websites. The tool allows users to search data and to view it as maps, tables or graphs.

CKAN is built with Python (backend) and Javascript (frontend). Its first release was in 2006 and since then it’s grown with the open data movement — something I expect will continue to become more and more important to society.

The CKAN open source community continues to grow the modular nature of CKAN, specifically creating extensions which are then re-used by others in the community. There are currently 1300 people following CKAN in GitHub (although the number of contributing users is a lot less than that, something the CKAN Steering Group is keen to change).

Who’s using CKAN?

There are hundreds of CKAN portals live, with hundreds of thousands of datasets being used. For example, there are around 640,000 datasets on the European data portal alone.

Some of the bigger CKAN users include the Humanitarian Data Exchange (managed by the United Nations), data.gov.au, data.gov (US), data.gov.uk, Open Government of Canada, and the European Data Portal.

The National Map (something we blogged about recently) also uses CKAN to source data from open data portals and to build its catalogue and CKAN is the foundation for the whole open data platform across Australia.

There are a lot more examples on the CKAN website if you want to get a better idea of how CKAN is transforming open data for a range of organisations. Maybe it’s right for your website or app.

Advantages of CKAN

As a tool, CKAN ties in with the open data revolution. CKAN helps organisations actually use data in a meaningful way, and to display it in a user-friendly manner. Steven DeCosta in his Introduction to CKAN said: “Part of a big win with open data is how we turn it from not just these...end points...but really make it part of the infrastructure for supporting society.”

Data is going to be a key element of our future society, with governments playing a major role as data custodians.

Some specific advantages of CKAN include:

  • Open source (you know I love open source!)
  • Widely used around the world with a growing base
  • Extensive use in key governments across the world
  • Built for data custodians, e.g. government (as well as machines and end users)
  • Works really well with apps

It’s clear that CKAN is a powerful tool for data custodians, allowing you to not only manage data, but to display it. CKAN also includes a faceted search and data preview capabilities...all available for free as part of the open source movement.

How it works

During the intro presentation, Steven DeCosta goes through the six-step process:

  1. Create an organisation.
  2. Login under that organisation
  3. Click ‘Add dataset’
  4. Add title, description and metadata
  5. Add resources (e.g. PDFs, links, data files, etc.)
  6. Add additional info if necessary

The Association

In terms of the structure of the CKAN Association, the two main driving forces are the Steering Group and the Technical Team.

The Association also takes members, who support the CKAN initiative. Membership is separated into four tiers:

  1. Gold
  2. Silver
  3. Bronze
  4. Supporter

Association members that are driving the project at the moment include Link Digital, Open Gov and Viderum.

How Salsa Digital is using CKAN

Salsa Digital is currently hosting, managing and enhancing CKAN for data.vic on behalf of the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet and we expect to do a lot more with CKAN in the future.

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