Populate is a studio focused on civic engagement design and development. One of our most relevant projects was the website and the database of the Panama Papers project for the ICIJ. Populate Data is our project to help media to work with open and private datasets, providing ways to share, update and publish this data. The Global Editors Network asked us a few questions for their Startups For News competition, ahead of the first pitch battle we will be taking part in this week. If you would like to vote for Populate, you can do it here.
GEN: What problem are you solving?
Populate: Journalists, researchers and analysts spend too much time just searching for data. Even more time is spent downloading, transforming and putting in place data from many different sources and formats. And then, you are just getting started with the actual work that generates value: extracting meaning from data.
Populate saves you from that first phase of the process that is time consuming and provides no special added value to your work. We offer a simple interface that gives you access to hundreds of datasets from many sources and formats in an unified way. Think of working with a gigantic database, where every dataset is accessed and works the same way, with the same interface.
GEN: Could you describe your solution to these problems?
Populate: We implement a central data index in the cloud with hundreds of open data datasets that are automatically indexed and updated. Data is exposed in the form of datasets with meta information. These datasets can be downloaded in CSV format, or consumed via the JSON API. Also in our future plans, teams will be allowed to upload private datasets that can be combined with Populate Data catalog and shared across all the users.
GEN: List 3 reasons why you are better than your competitors
Populate: 1 . Data consumption is really easy, using the JSON API or CSV files. The API supports an important number of parameters to customise the queries, and allows filtering, sorting, and real time calculations.
2. Data is automatically updated, so the users shouldn’t worry about being outdated. We have also a flexible system to add custom data updaters in the form of small scripts that can be developed ad-hoc.
3 . Cloud technology gives you the opportunity to use it directly in the media, as a widget, or in a visualisation.
GEN: How does Populate Data make money?
Populate: We want to help media organization and analysis by eliminating time consuming tasks that provide no value. We’ll charge just a fraction of what currently has to be spent searching, downloading and cleaning datasets.
GEN: What are your next steps? Future developments or features to be added to your product?
Populate: Our focus for the next months is to work in different parts of the product: on one side we need stabilize it and validate the different use cases with real users. On the other side we have pretty cool features in mind, such as private datasets for teams, and custom data importer (with format auto-detection, dataset versioning and so on).