Opening Big Data

December 10, 2015

Big data and the new phenomenon of open data are closely related but they’re not the same. Open data brings forth a new a perspective that can make big data more useful, more democratic, and less threatening.

In layman’s terms, open data is publically accessible data that people, companies, and organisations can use free of charge or at a minimal cost. They can then utilise this data at will to launch new ventures, analyse patterns and trends, make data-driven decisions, or solve complex problems – whatever they require.

However, open data has to have two basic features. First off, the data must be publicly available for anyone to use, and then, it must be licensed in a way that allows for its reuse. Open data should also be relatively easy to use and understand.
This has become an increasingly important global issue, from a political point of view.

Earlier this year, 65 countries attended the OGP summit in Mexico to join the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which aims to ensure governments become more transparent and accountable to their citizens. And with South Africa being nominated as co-chair for this initiative, the adoption of open data here at home has become paramount.

It was in light of this that Chillisoft was approached by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) to help build South Africa’s Open Data Portal.

We saw the potential social impact of this project for all South Africans and were keen to get onboard. It was a tight deadline, but the impact of what could be achieved was just too alluring to turn down.

So in order to kick this project off, we partnered with Code4SA to help us procure the data – after all, what good is an open data portal without any data?

We began by investigating the best options for making this project happen in the given time frame. In the process we uncovered a project called DKAN, a platform for creating Open Data portals with a built in CMS. Our team then set about modifying the DKAN UX to meet the desired look and feel.

Thanks to our amazingly talented team of developers, the required lines of code started to take shape. We hurriedly skinned and modified the DKAN platform to meet the required UX spec by the delivery deadline.

Chillisoft delivered a preview-ready version just days before a national Dataquest was to take place in three cities across the country, and we continued to make improvements along the way, in preparation for Mexico’s launch.
We successfully delivered all this in time for the nationwide Dataquest and the OGP summit in Mexico thanks to the hard work of both the Chillisoft and Code4SA teams.

Chillisoft’s developers , as members of Durban’s Open Data community, took great pride in the project as and participated in Dataquest.

You can check the portal out at Data.gov.za

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