Open Data Windsor-Essex Draws Closer

Open Data Windsor-Essex (ODWE) is an organization dedicated to providing municipal data from the Windsor-Essex area to the public in a useful way. It's the brainchild of the Windsor Hackforge and sponsored by both the Hackforge and Parallel 42 Systems.

ODWE's Origins

I took part as a team mentor in a couple of 24-hour hackathons here in town (the 2013 HackWE code jams, organized in cooperation with WETech). A common theme in both was open data. The students in the first HackWE event had to use data from Windsor's open data website - data which was only available for download in csv, pdf and GIS shape files.

Those of us from the Hackforge who were facilitating the code jam found it frustrating that there was no API to access this data directly. That first code jam got Hackforge board members Doug Sartori and Mita Williams thinking about what we could do to improve the state of that data. ODWE was conceived shortly thereafter.

Deployment

I volunteered to help with ODWE's technical operations, and this evening I deployed our portal using CKAN, an open source data portal solution built in Python with Pylons and SQLAlchemy, on top of Postgres. It uses Apache's awesome search platform, Solr, so we'll be able to search through the data we catalog really quickly and intelligently.

Setup was a little involved, but the docs for CKAN are great and the whole process went smoothly. The portal software looks pretty solid, and there's a host of available extensions that provide various additional features and integration with other software and services.

The portal isn't public yet - we still need to shape CKAN to our needs - but we're on our way to getting Open Data Windsor-Essex off the ground.

Looking Forward

I'm excited to see what Doug and Mita have planned, and hope we find lots of volunteers to help get Windsor-Essex's open data into an accessible format.

If all goes well, we'll inspire the City of Windsor and municipalities in the surrounding area to start opening more and more of their data to the public.

Author

Jeff Szusz

I'm a professional web developer, a novice videography nerd, and I love a good book or games with friends. I'm @jeffszusz on twitter!