Ontario’s New Data Catalogue Launches in Beta

Bianca Sayan
Aug 22, 2019 · 4 min read

Editor’s note: Bianca Sayan (she/her) works on the data catalogue as part of the Open Government team in the Ontario Digital Service.


Today the Ontario Digital Service has launched a beta version of our new data catalogue! This means an exciting year of engagement and collaboration with businesses and the public. We want to share what this will look like for you.

A screenshot of the data catalogue in beta — a layout with a search bar, calls to action, and a news section.
A screenshot of the data catalogue in beta — a layout with a search bar, calls to action, and a news section.
A screenshot of the data catalogue in beta.

What to expect

We launched in ‘beta’, which means we’ve launched a data catalogue that gets the job done while also being open and responsive to change. Initially, our beta data catalogue will include our 25 most popular open datasets to give us a controlled test environment.

These updates will allow more government data to be released in a format that is most supportive for businesses to use for economic value. It will also cut unnecessary red tape that slows down data being released for businesses and people who need it.

Our current data catalogue is still the official place to go for Government of Ontario data and will be fully maintained until we’re ready to go live with our new version.

What you get

A better data catalogue! The new catalogue will be focused on what you want and need. You will be able to create visualizations, filter and search datasets, preview the data you are interested in, and generally be able to access the data you need faster and more accurately.

A screenshot of the data catalogue’s search page with search results for the term “fish”.
A screenshot of the data catalogue’s search page with search results for the term “fish”.
A screenshot of the data catalogue’s search page

Why we’re doing this

We launched the current data catalogue in 2012 with a great platform that helped us share information with Ontarians on almost 3,000 data assets. As time passed, user needs changed and the demand for more data and features increased. To meet these needs, we will be moving the catalogue from its existing platform to a more advanced system designed for this purpose.

Our beta data catalogue is using CKAN. CKAN is a world-leading open source data portal platform used by many other governments and organizations for their open data catalogues. Open source allows everyone to see behind the scenes into how the platform works. Catalogue managers and programmers can suggest modifications to improve the code behind it. Working collaboratively with other programmers in this platform gives us an opportunity to not just improve our own catalogue, but also to collaboratively and continuously improve CKAN (and all the data catalogues across the world that use CKAN). We can then offer you a lean and stable, simpler, faster, and better catalogue.

The ability to easily find relevant data is a prerequisite to unlocking the potential of open data. A more usable catalogue will allow for the development of more user-centred solutions like mapyourproperty and iamsick. Extra features like having a list of applications, using APIs for data, implementing built-in tools to visualize data sets, and other ease-of-access changes in the beta data catalogue will help you find more data and use it easily.

We’re also working in a different regulatory environment. With the Simpler, Faster, Better Services Act, Ontario is making a commitment to provide more open data and more standardized, reliable data at your fingertips. As well, Ontario is working toward a Data Strategy that emphasizes the importance of data and strong cyber security infrastructure. We need a data catalogue that can support these new provincial drivers.

What we’re hoping to do

Over the next year, you’ll see an evolving data catalogue. With your feedback and guidance, we’ll be adding new features and information. You should expect to see new tools that help you better search, use, and visualize data assets. We’re also paving the way for you to be able to use the catalogue find out about artificial intelligence assets we’re using within the government.

Agile

We’re working on the data catalogue in an agile and user-centred way, which means we’ll be sharing changes early and often to get user feedback as soon as possible. You can influence the evolution of the data catalogue by providing regular feedback and keeping up with our frequent changes.

How to help

The beta data catalogue is being built and continually updated to support you, but to do that, we need to hear from you! You can:

● Tweet (using the hashtag #myOpenON) or email us at opengov@ontario.ca with your feedback on the beta data catalogue now and in response to future changes

Subscribe to our newsletter about updates and upcoming events

● Come to our civic tech, usability, and engagement events (which you can find out about through our newsletter)

● See the beta data catalogue at stage.data.ontario.ca

Digital, the Ontario government, and all things in between. Learn more at http://ontario.ca/digital

Bianca Sayan

Written by

Ontario Digital
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