Open data tools that make publishing easy (even for non-techies like me)

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ODI Junior Analyst Dawn Duhaney reflects on her journey from getting to grips with open data to publishing her first dataset, and urges other ‘non-techies’ to do the same

Let’s face it: the tricky, technical aspects of open data can put off non-technical people (like me) from trying to use or publish it.

Obviously, domain expertise and software such as CKAN and Socrata is needed to release and manage large organisational databases. However, times are changing, and obstacles are being removed so now anyone can publish small- to medium-sized datasets without trouble.

One tool that has made data publishing easier is Git Data Publisher, created by the ODI tech team before the end of 2014. It’s designed to help non-technical people release small amounts of data with a licence, and is an easy to navigate ‘front end’ of GitHub, a tech platform used for coding.

Once you’ve created a login to Github (if you do not have one), you can take the following steps to publishing:

  • Complete a simple form with basic information about the dataset name, source, and how often you expect to update the data
  • Choose an option for licence attribution
  • Upload dataset(s) of choice

With the click of a button, the dataset is then available for anyone to access, use or share, along with metadata about the frequency of publishing and licensing information. To celebrate, you can then add an Open Data Certificate (another user friendly tool) verifying the data as open.

I used the Git Data Publisher to release my first dataset; feedback from our week-long session which launched the first cohort of our Open Data Leaders Network in London, supported by the OD4D Network.

The project helps individuals in governments leading the implementation of open data initiatives by providing an opportunity for them to share knowledge, experiences and challenges with peers from around the world. Our second cohort of the Open Data Leaders Network launched this month, with participants from around the world including Argentina, Nigeria and Romania.

A running theme throughout the Open Data Leaders Network is the importance of training for individuals inside and outside government to understand what open data actually is, and the benefits of being ‘open by default’.

Git Data Publisher is a small tool in a list of easy-to-use applications, such as Open Refine and Open Data Certificates, designed to bring people who are not necessarily from a technical background closer to the data. These tools make it easier to publish, sort and improve the quality of the data.

In order to increase understanding and fully reap the social, environmental and economic potential of open data, we need to encourage more individuals to physically engage with data that is being released.

So, non-techies, there’s no reason not to explore at least one dataset: whether you release it, sort it or refine it. Like me, you’ll discover just how easy it is to ‘get your hands dirty’ with open data.

**_Dawn Duhaney is Junior Analyst at the ODI. Follow @DuhaneyDawn on Twitter

If you have ideas or experience in open data that you’d like to share, pitch us a blog or tweet us at @ODIHQ

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