Data company OpenDataSoft has published a map that claims to be a comprehensive list of all open data portals around the world. Since we in this blog are focused on being critical of data, I wondered if perhaps this map was too good to be true, so I did some investigating. First, the map lives up to its claim of being straightforward, and is rich with data–thousands of points exist on it. The text in the pop-up boxes is truncated, requiring the user to click for more, but other than that, the map is easy to navigate. OpenDataSoft is concerned with data far beyond geospatial data, so it is understandable that the map sometimes points to sites that are not specific to geospatial information, though sometimes they are. For example, the Bismarck North Dakota points list the office of the state government and their data, and not specifically the North Dakota geospatial data portal, but I have no doubt that I could eventually find the geospatial data portal from the main state portal. However, the point on the map to the north, in Minot, does point to the Ward County open GIS data portal. Below the map is a very helpful text listing with links to these portals so that the user is not limited to simply searching on a map, which (counterintuitively to some of us in the GIS industry who naturally go for the map first) sometimes can be the slowest way to search.
The OpenDataSoft staff wrote an article explaining how they put together the map, and the article reveals some very interesting coding work and also much manual labor and therefore, dedication. They are open to feedback from the user community. As we have written about in the past, the chief challenge with maps and listings like this has always been – who will maintain it in the future? The site https://opendatainception.io/ allows data users to add a portal to the map, which gives some indication that the site could be in part, crowdsourced. If so, and if OpenDataSoft is committed to maintaining this resource, it could indeed become a very valued resource for the GIS community. A map-based way of finding portals makes perfect sense, particularly for the geo-data user. Whether the map contains your favorite data portal is not as important as what this map represents–the fruits of the open data movement. I applaud the efforts of OpenDataSoft and encourage them to keep this resource updated.
Map from OpenDataSoft of “all the open data sites around the world.”