Building tools for Open Data adoption
At DataCats, we are focused on a simple problem — how do we make sure every single government has easy access to get up and running with Open Data? In other words, how do we make it as easy as possible for governments of all levels to start publishing open data?
The answer, as you might tell by this blog, is CKAN. But CKAN uses a very non-traditional technology stack, especially by government standards. Python, PostgreSQL, Solr, and Unix, are not in the toolbox of most IT departments. This is true not only for local government in Europe and North America, but also for almost all government in the developing world.
Our answer to this problem are two software projects which, like CKAN, are Free and Open Source Software. The first is the eponymously named datacats, and the second is named CKAN Multisite. The two projects together aim to solve the operational difficulties in deploying and managing CKAN installations.
datacats is a command line library built on Docker, a popular new alternative to virtualization that is experiencing explosive growth in industry. It aims to help CKAN developers easily get set up and running with one or more CKAN development instances, as well as deploy those easily on any provider – be it Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Digital Ocean, or a plain old physical server data centre.
Our team has been using datacats to develop a number of large CKAN projects for governments here in Canada and around the world. Being open source, we get word every week of another IT department somewhere that is trying it out.
CKAN Multisite is a companion project to datacats, targeted at system administrators who wish to manage one or more CKAN instances on their infrastructure. The project was very generously sponsored by U.S. Open Data. Multisite provides a simple API and a web interface through which starting, stopping, and managing CKAN servers is as simple as pressing a button. In essence it gives you your very own CKAN cloud.
CKAN is as an open source project that many national and large city governments depend on as the cornerstone of their open data programs. We hope that these two open source projects will help the CKAN ecosystem continue to grow. If you are a sysadmin or a developer working on CKAN, give it a try — and if you have the appetite — consider contributing to the projects themselves.