Getting the most from OpenDataNI

January 20, 2017

OK, so you are already familiar with open data and the many potential benefits it can bring... but how can you extract the most value from OpenDataNI?


OpenDataNI has a number of features designed to help you to:

  • Find datasets of interest amongst the many already published,


  • Ask for publication of datasets you would like to see if they’re not already published,


  • Follow for updates – you can follow:
    • Datasets, so that you’ll be informed when they are updated or added to;
    • Publisher Organisations, so that you can see when they add new data to the portal;
    • Themes, so that you’ll know when new or changed data has been posted to the portal relating to that theme.


  • Integrate data into your applications and programs, by providing API keys to the data


  • Show off a little.... Tell us about your work and how you’ve re-used our data, and


  • Support the community of OpenDataNI users – by commenting on datasets and on dataset suggestions, you can make suggestions, ask questions, and let data publishers know where the data could be improved.


For most of these features you will need to register on the portal (top right corner of the homepage) you just need to input your email address and create a username and password.


Finding Datasets

Our datasets can searched through in any of four ways:

  • Searching by Keyword:

Just type into the ‘Search our data’ box (top right of any page on the site) and click ‘Go’ to see all datasets with your chosen search term amongst their Keywords.


  • Browsing by Theme:

By clicking a Theme on the Home page, you’ll see a list of datasets related to the theme chosen.


  • Browsing by Publisher:

Within the Publisher section, simply click on the publisher of interest to see all datasets published by that public sector body, with the most recently added/updated data shown at the top of the list.


  • Browsing all Datasets:

As the name suggests, this is the long list of all datasets on the portal, with the most recently added/updated data shown at the top of the list.


What if the data you want isn’t published yet?

No problem, that’s what our ‘Suggest Data’ feature is for!

Simply register/log in on the portal, go to the Suggest Data section and tell us about the dataset that you’d like to see published.

We pass the data suggestions we receive on to the one or more public bodies where the data may be held; they in turn respond to say whether they have the data, whether it can be published and when they propose to publish it where they are able to, or why they cannot publish it if that’s the case.

There are some types of data that cannot be released – for more information on that, take a look through the Open Data Strategy for Northern Ireland 2015-18.


Following for updates

So, you’ve found some interesting data, and the publisher has indicated that they shall update or add to the dataset over time.... How do you know when the data has been changed or added to?

When registered and logged in to the portal, you are able to ‘Follow’ individual datasets, publisher organisations and entire Themes of datasets.

Wherever you see the  button, you can click to get updates relating to this listed in your ‘News Feed’ each time you log into the site; you’ll also see a ‘running count’ of new events whilst you are logged in to the site, shown in the counter at the top of the screen . We hope to update this functionality later this year so that you will get an email to the address you used to register informing you of updates to the datasets or organisations that you are following.



An API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of functions and procedures that are used by developers who want to interact with data published on OpenDataNI.

Once you register on the portal you will be allocated a unique API key – to find your key, log into the site and go to view your profile and scroll down the page and on the bottom right hand side you will see your API key.  You can view the CKAN API guide here.



You’ve done something interesting using some of our data and you’d like to show it off to the world; step right this way and submit a ‘Showcase’....

We love to show off the many innovative and exciting re-uses of our data that the OpenDataNI community create, so to let us do this, we have our ‘Showcases’ section.



Just use the ‘Contact’ form to send us details of your work, the information we need is contained in this article and we’ll be in touch if any other information is needed in order to show off your great work.

And of course if it’s inspiration you’re after, have a look round the Showcases section to see what’s been done so far with our data.


Supporting the OpenDataNI community

OpenDataNI has an active base of site-users, without whom we couldn’t have achieved as much as we have to this point, and there have been many valuable comments and dataset suggestions made that have helped us to secure publication of interesting and popular data.

To date, there have been a few little glitches brought to our attention and also a number of suggested improvements which have been taken on board by data-publishers. It is only with such enthusiasm and support from the portal’s users, the OpenDataNI community, that we can achieve our goal of making Northern Ireland’s public sector data ‘open by default’.

So, if you see a dataset on the site that perhaps could be improved, or added to, so as to make the data even more useful, or if you see a data suggestion from another site-user that you would like to also lend your support to, please do leave a comment. Also feel free to comment that you are happy that a dataset has been published!


And for anything else.....

If you have any queries regarding published datasets, you should enquire directly with the publishing organisation using the contact e-mail address contained in the dataset’s metadata.

If, however, you want to get in touch about OpenDataNI (or about anything else not catered for by the Comments or Suggest Data facilities, as mentioned above), feel free to complete the ‘Contact’ form (on the main menu bar) to submit your queries or comments.