Featured blog: OpenDataNI

Since launching in late 2015, OpenDataNI (Northern Ireland’s public sector Open Data portal) has made significant strides in promoting the release of public sector information as open data.

The portal has been developed as part of the implementation of the Open Data Strategy for Northern Ireland 2015-18. The vision of the strategy is to embed a culture of open by default across the Northern Ireland public sector and to drive public service efficiency, stimulate innovation and support the economy in Northern Ireland.

The portal strives to set standards in terms of the open data published; in doing so, it mandates the following:

  • the creation of DCAT standard metadata;
  • publication of data in non-proprietary, machine-readable formats; and
  • all data is released under an Open Government Licence.

Data can be searched for by theme, by publisher or by keyword search. Whilst OpenDataNI is the primary location for finding NI public sector open data, you will also find our datasets listed on both the UK open data portal and the European open data portal.

Some noteworthy releases include Translink Northern Ireland Railway Real Time Passenger Information and GP prescribing data for all GP practices in Northern Ireland for the last 3 years. Ordnance Survey boundary datasets and street name gazetteer have also proved to be popular releases.

The portal encourages engagement of the site’s users, affording those interested in NI public sector open data the opportunity to comment on datasets and also to suggest datasets for publishing.


OpenDataNI also has a ‘Showcase’ feature; where users of the open data have developed applications, we can then ‘showcase’ them. To date, OpenDataNI has had five showcases submitted, each of which makes use of one or more OpenDataNI published datasets:

Belfast Trees

Two showcases using this dataset have been submitted –

These showcased applications enable users to locate and identify and/or visualise trees located in the Belfast City Council area.

GP Prescribing Data

Two showcases based on this dataset have been submitted –

These applications allow their users to visualise the costs of GP prescriptions in NI, by practice and by other variables.

Translink Bus Stop List and Translink Bus & Rail Stations

One showcase employing both of these datasets has been submitted –

This application enables its users to identify and locate the nearest bus-stop and bus or rail station from any given location in NI.

We encourage anyone who has developed something with NI open data to share it with us (via the Showcase facility) so that we can demonstrate the active use of Open Data. For more on the ‘Showcase’ feature of OpenDataNI (as well as how to submit a Showcase), see our article on the portal “What are you doing with open data?”.

OpenDataNI in numbers…

To date, OpenDataNI has:

  • published 100 datasets, comprising 265 unique individual records;
  • had over 57,000 page views, with over 1,100 physical downloads of a variety of datasets; and
  • received some 25 dataset suggestions, and so far these have resulted in a commitment to publish in the case of 11 datasets across a range of NI public bodies, as well as the successful publication of a further 4 datasets.

So what next? The number of datasets on the portal will continue to grow as we work on releasing more data. We are currently working on the release of airborne LiDAR data across the public sector. This data, (initially collected to scan flood areas, roads and heritage sites), has great potential to be reused in many fields such as archaeology, computer games, walking apps, civil engineering and forestry.

We want to engage with communities of interested stakeholders (such as ODI Belfast) to stimulate the use of open data through hackathons, outreach events and showcases.

We believe that the NI public sector is at a significant turning point and must now fully embrace open data principles as standard working practice. Ultimately, we want to create an open data ecosystem to increase transparency, cooperation and collaboration between government, the private sector, academia and the citizen.

The Open Data NI Team

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