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The Victorian Government Open Data Portal

Salsa Digital manages, and has set up a new Information Asset Register in CKAN as part of the new open data platform for the Victorian Government.

The players

The Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) manages several centralised digital services, including, a CKAN-based open data platform where public servants, industry, researchers, and citizens can access government data.

The problem

The DataVic Access Policy (2012) and the Victorian Data Sharing Act 2017 introduced the challenge of providing government data as open by default when appropriate conditions are met. The 2017 Act made it even more important to continue work on and implement improvements.

DPC went out to tender in 2017, looking for a new vendor to take over the management of and provide enhancements. In April 2017 Salsa Digital won the tender.

There were several problems and issues, including an older instance of CKAN and limited infrastructure (there was no environment for development, testing and user acceptance testing — only a production environment).

The solution

Managing and enhancing needed to be separated into two different sub-projects:

  1. Maintain the status quo of the current website, only addressing high-priority issues (this made more sense than spending funds on enhancements in the old CKAN instance).

  2. Build a new Information Asset Register (IAR) using latest versions of CKAN. This new CKAN instance will eventually become the backbone for the Victoria Public Sector (VPS) internal IAR. A separate CKAN instance, known as the Open Data Portal (ODP), will be integrated with Victoria’s new Single Digital Presence (SDP) platform and built to host and make discoverable all public data records for citizens to access. This will become the new

The main Salsa-built customisations were:

  • Creating a dataset publishing workflow covering four stages — draft, ready for approval, published and archived. The workflow we built includes automated emails, for example an email sent to the approver.

  • Dataset visibility enhancements — normally CKAN gives people the option to select private or public for each dataset but Salsa created customised visibility around the ‘private’ options, so datasets can be visible only within that organisation (this is the ‘current’ option), by parent organisations, child organisations, and the whole ‘family’.

  • Organisation management so data owners can manage users within their organisation.

Future plans

The next stages include:

  • Integration to harvest spatial data records from another CKAN instance managed by Department of Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). This integration solution will be generic so we can integrate with other agencies that have their own CKAN instances in the future.

  • Full rollout across the Victorian Government to bring more datasets into the new IAR.

  • Schema changes to ensure consistency across all agencies (schema is the way you describe a dataset, e.g. metadata fields, so it can be found easily).

  • Creating the ODP and integration with Drupal frontend that connects seamlessly to the new ODP instance and harvests “public” data records from internal IAR . This will be a final deliverable for the new

Salsa is currently working on these future plans with the DPC.

The benefits

Many of the benefits from this project will be seen in the future, especially in the next year or so as more Victorian agencies bring their datasets across to the new IAR and benefit from features such as the Salsa-customised workflow, dataset visibility enhancements and organisation management.

Some of the specific benefits include:

  • An up-to-date CKAN instance with customised user interface to make datasets easier to upload, manage and view

  • A customised workflow with automated communications to streamline the dataset approval and publication process

  • More flexibility around dataset visibility, with customised groups (i.e. parent/child/family)

  • Improved organisation management features so organisations can quickly and easily add users and give them corresponding permissions

  • Better searching features with the new, standardised schema

Why Salsa Digital?

Salsa Digital won the tender on the basis of our experience with open data, CKAN and Drupal (which is used in the frontend) – and our commitment to the open government movement. Open data is a large part of our commitment to the shared vision of innovative open data solutions enabling open government.

About Salsa Digital

Salsa is a highly specialised, enterprise-grade digital agency focused on open source for social good and innovation. We’re committed to the open government movement and to the many benefits this ethos provides including transparency, innovation, and sharing and improving problems and patterns solved by the pioneers before us.

The open source movement has played a key role in the evolution of Salsa. Over the years, as technology and practices have developed, this commitment to open source has grown to encompass a much broader base beyond open source content management systems (open CMS) — open data, open platform and open design. We contribute and deliver services in all these areas, with a strong involvement in specific open source initiatives such as Drupal, Wordpress, GovCMS, Single Digital Presence, Kubernetes/Lagoon and CKAN.

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