Open Data Companion (ODC) – Bringing Open Data to the Mobile Platform

As software developers, we are always looking for data to solve a problem or address a shortcoming. It’s just how we’re wired. So, you heard of open data [1], and now you’re excited to go exploring and get the open data needed for the project. That’s when you face the first major obstacle – open data (with the right use license) is so difficult to locate on the Internet, you spend hours and hours searching before you find data with the right ‘open’ license you can use. Luckily, in recent times, OKFN’s frictionless data project [2] and ThinkData Works [3] are taking actions to help solve this problem.

As a data journalist, researcher or open data enthusiast, have you ever wished you could just whip-out your mobile device and quickly get instant access to a specific open data? Or maybe you want to always be aware when new datasets are available from a portal you’re interested in without having to manually poll or visit the portal for regular checks?

Everyone now has a mobile device. Popular consensus [4] and reports [5] show that mobile device usage and time spent on mobile devices are rapidly increasing. This means that mobile devices are now one of the fastest and easiest means of accessing data and information. Yet, as of now, open data lacks a strong mobile presence.

Motorola Smartphone Relationship Survey [Image Source – Motorola Smartphone Relationship Survey]

To tackle the highlighted challenges, Open Data Companion was developed to bridge the gap between open data portals and the mobile platform.

What is Open Data Companion (ODC)?

ODC is a FREE Android productivity app which provides a unified access point and common repository to over 120 CKAN [6] open data portals and thousands of datasets from around the world; right from your mobile device. Crafted with mobile-optimised features and design, this is an easy and convenient way to find, access and share open data.

Open Data Companion provides a framework for all Private Sector, State, Regional, National and Worldwide CKAN open data portals to deliver open data to all mobile users.

ODC Screen Shot Download the ODC Android App here

Key Features

  • ODC is built on a distributed system of CKAN portals. This means the app (or its server) does not cache or store harvested datasets. Rather the app uses the powerful CKAN API [7] to retrieve live/current datasets from any active CKAN portal on the Internet. Users are free to setup access to as many data portals as they want.
    Portal Access Setup on ODC
  • Browse datasets from any accessed portal using categorisation / classification (i.e. organisations and groups) as provided by the portal. This category based navigation along with mobile gestures allow users to more quickly locate datasets.
    Browsing Datasets by Categories on ODC
  • Receive push notifications on your mobile device whenever new datasets become available from any portal of your choosing. This helps to keep track of new uploads on any portal without having to poll it manually for changes.
  • Preview datasets and create in-app data visualisations. The app uses the installed data viewer extensions on CKAN portals to enable mobile users produce data visualisations. This is a great feature for data journalist and data visualizers.
    ODC Dataset Viewing & Data Viz
    ODC Dataset Viewing & Data Viz  ODC Dataset Viewing & Data Viz
  • Other key features - download datasets to your mobile device; bookmark datasets for later viewing; share links to datasets on social media.

ODC complements and supplements the services of CKAN portals; it allows data producers and portal administrators to reach mobile users at no added costs or without additional configurations. Find out more about Open Data Companion (ODC) [8].

Use ODC and give feedback. More features are actively being developed.


[1] Open Data Handbook
[2] OKFN’s Frictionless Data Project
[3] ThinkData Work’s Project Namara
[4] We Now Spend More Time Staring at Phones Than TVs
[5] Study: Americans spend 162 minutes on their mobile device per day, mostly with apps
[6] CKAN
[8] Open Data Companion (ODC)