Next Step in OGD Websites

What DataUsa is doing could be – I guess – the next step in the evolution of Open Government Data websites. It’s the step from offering file downloads to presenting data (and not files) interactively. And it’s a kind of presentation many official statistical websites would surely be proud of.

César A. Hidalgo from MIT discusses the philosophy behind this. More at the end of this post; at first a short look at this website.


Bringing data together

Merging data from different sources may have been the most expensive and challenging task and the conditio sine qua non for the existence of this website. And perhaps it’s more an organizational than a technical challenge.

Seven public data sources are accessible via DataUsa


Presenting data

Adapting to what internauts normally do, the main entrance is a search bar;



Thematical and geographical profiles are available, too. But in a hidden menu.

The presentation of the data is a mix of generated text and various types of graphs.




The option above every graph allows to share, embed, download, get a table and even an API for the data.



And finally thematical maps provide other views and insights:


But the fascinating part is Stories

Various authors write stories focussing on special topics and using the presentation techniques of the site.


A glossary explains technical terms and the About Section presents the authors and their aim:
‘In 2014, Deloitte, Datawheel, and Cesar Hidalgo, Professor at the MIT Media Lab and Director of MacroConnections, came together to embark on an ambitious journey — to understand and visualize the critical issues facing the United States in areas like jobs, skills and education across industry and geography. And, to use this knowledge to inform decision making among executives, policymakers and citizens.’

And this leads to the
Philosophy behind 

César A. Hidalgo, one of the websites’ authors explains why they did what they did in a blog post with the title ‘What’s Wrong with Open-Data Sites–and How We Can Fix Them.’

Here’s the design philosophy in a visual nutshell:



‘Our hope is to make the data shopping experience joyful, instead of maddening, and by doing so increase the ease with which data journalists, analysts, teachers, and students, use public data. Moreover, we have made sure to make all visualizations embeddable, so people can use them to create their own stories, whether they run a personal blog or a major newspaper.’


‘After all, the goal of open data should not be just to open files, but to stimulate our understanding of the systems that this data describes. To get there, however, we have to make sure we don’t forget that design is also part of what’s needed to tame the unwieldy bottoms of the deep web.’



OGD – the statistical point of view

The World Wide Web has set the standard: vast amounts of information are freely available and ready for use. And the aim of many open data initiatives is for this to become increasingly true for government data as well. Although official statistics have been offering this service for a long time, there is still a need for action in order to meet important open government data criteria: data catalogues, licensing and machine-readable data formats to name a few.

Read more in this article published in the December issue of ValueS, the information magazine of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office.


OGD events

There’s a lot of activities in the realm of Open Government Data OGD in the past few days.

In Switzerland the second event was held in Zürich on 28 June (agenda and documents in German).

Presentations from Rufus Pollock and Nigel Shadbolt (in English) will be available on

Zürich used 2012 as a marketing occasion for its eZurich OGD Portal opend the same day. It could become a catalysator for more such portals in Switzerland.


Open Government Data Studie Schweiz

On the same day a comprehensive study about OGD in Switzerland was published with some recommendations:

Handlungsempfehlungen für Politik, Verwaltung und Öffentlichkeit

  1. Politischen Willen für OGD äussern
  2. OGD freigeben und publizieren
  3. OGD nutzen
  4. Umgang mit OGD lernen
  5. Die Wirkung und den Nutzen von OGD empirisch untersuchen
  6. Die Technologie für OGD erforschen und weiterentwickeln
  7. Schlussbemerkung: …. dass wir den “Swiss Way of OGD” postulieren: Nicht (vergeblich) auf das grosse, koordinierte, zentral und top-down geführte Programm warten. Sondern dezentral, föderalistisch und lokal ansetzen, Daten freigeben, Beispiele schaffen, anregen und anstossen und auf die überzeugende Kraft des demonstrierten und erlebten Nutzens von OGD setzen.


And newly published: UK government’s white paper on open data

‘The government’s newly published white paper on open data makes a number of commitments that if carried through will keep the UK at the forefront of a recent and growing open data revolution.’ In these words Nigel Shadbolt announces the new white paper in The Guardian (28 June 2012).

Yearly Re-use Turnover

And one argument in favour of OGD can be heard more and more often: The positive effect of OGD on the economy. Nigel Shadbolt gave some examples in 2012: i.e.  32 billion Euros in the EU countries…

See also the figures from open data Spain:

‘At the national meeting of open data initiatives in Spain new figures were reported on the size and volume of the re-use market in Spain. … that the volume of business activities directly connected to the re-use of public sector information is between 332 and 550 million Euros per year.’

And here’s more of this:

open data and official statistics: how and where?

There’s a hot topic concerning official statistics as well as many governmental bodies owning data: open government data OGD.

Official statistics in most countries offer open data for years now. But mostly in their own silos and in various flavors: From PDF to XLS and CSV to RDF LOD, in interactive databases like px-web, oecd.stat, genesis-online etc., with visualization tools and various search facilities.

On the other hand there are initiatives to provide software, create standards and build platforms in order to bring together myriads of data sets and making these accessible in one place.  is such a platform assembling more than 3800 datasets (June 2012). is powerd by a software called CKAN

… claiming to be …


What about official statistics?

the Data Hub contains a lot of data sets from official statistics

Among these are simple links to National Statistical Institutes

But also machine readable linked open data


Several institutions are using CKAN with their own themes.

UK (in CKAN). The Office for National Statistics ONS shows a lot of data (847 data sets) in the CKAN powered catalogue, with rich metadata and links to the ONS website.

EU (in CKAN). Europe’s Public Data aggregates datasets from several sources,


CKAN Data Store

As far as I can see statistical institutions use CKAN as a catalogue linking to the sources on the institution’s websites. But CKAN could also be a host for the data itself:

‘As well as holding metadata and links to the offsite data, CKAN can provide secure storage for the data itself. When creating the dataset or resource, you can either link to data hosted elsewhere, or upload it in the same action as registering it on CKAN.’ (link to CKAN).

It would be very interesting to know who in official statistics already envisages such a solution for it’s data ….!