Tag Archives: foda

Playing With Q-GIS

Most of my open data work is with government entities to help change their processes, routines and perceptions to ensure steps towards open by design. I almost never really work with open data itself during those activities. So I decided to accept the challenge we ourselves issued with the launch of the Frisian Open Data Platform.

The challenge was to “find out what the planting year was of the monumental tree that is nearest the street light with the provincial ID number 696502”. Finding that out needed to be done by using data from the Frisian Open Data Platform.

Figuring out which data to use was easy. There is a provincial data set that contains the position and ID’s of all street lights for roads where the province is responsible (other roads can be the responsibility of a municipality, or the national government). There is another data set of the city of Leeuwarden that contains all trees of interest within the city limits. If the street light with the right ID is within city limits, it should be possible to answer the question with the tree data set of Leeuwarden.

So what I did was first look in the provincial data set for the right ID. I copied the coordinates that data set gives for that ID into Google Maps, to see where it is on the map, and it turned out to indeed be within Leeuwarden city limits. So the Leeuwarden tree list contains the answer I’m looking for.

Then I started up Q-GIS, which is an open source geo-data viewer (and in fact, a very capable open source GIS *editor* too, as Peter says in the comments). It is possible to connect a CKAN data portal, such as the Frisian platform is, to Q-GIS. Under the menu-option Plugins in Q-GIS one can install a CKAN plugin, which gives you a CKAN logo button in Q-GIS. Pressing that prompts a dialog in which you can specify the right address for the CKAN server you want to use. This was specified on the Frisian platform as https://ckan.dataplatform.nl/api/3/. I also needed to add a default folder that can be used to keep necessary files.

Now I could search within all the Frisian open data platform data sets right within Q-GIS, using that plugin. I first loaded a map of the Netherlands (the TOP10NL map, which is the most detailed map the Dutch Cadastre provides, as a zipfile of 2GB). I used the PDOK Dutch open geoportal for this, for which I had already previously installed the PDOK plugin, in similar ways as the CKAN plugin). Then I added the Provincial street light list, and the Leeuwarden tree list as layers on the map. I then scrolled the map to the location I had previously checked out in Google Maps.

In the screenshot below you see green dots on the red road. Those are provincial street lights. The rightmost green dot is the one we’re looking for. A bit further to the right you see a row of purple dots. Those are the trees, and one of these is nearest our green dot. Now, I visually judged which purple dot is the nearest, although you could calculate it from the coordinates in the data. Also there is some room for error, as most of the trees in that row were planted at the same time as it turns out. By clicking on one of the dots in Q-GIS you can see the data fields and labels attached to it, and that gave me the year of planting.


The map of Leeuwarden, with the street lights as green dots on the red road in the middle, and the monumental trees as purple dots.


At the top you see the depicted map layers (Dutch map top10nl, trees in ‘bomen’, street lights in ‘provfriesland’), below that, when you highlight a specific purple dot, under identification results (‘identificatieresultaten’), PLANTJAAR is the field with the year of planting.

Frisian Open Data Platform a Unique Collaboration

Yesterday saw the Frisian Open Data Platform go live. Initiated by the Province Frysl├ón, the City of Leeuwarden (the province’s capital), and the regional historic center and archive Tresoar it is a unique collaborative effort in the Netherlands. The Province initially proposed to create the platform, based on the notion that open data is more useful if it is available from local governments across the region, and seeking to avoid every local government needing to create their own infrastructure for publishing (especially an issue with smaller municipalities), and that creating a single point to search for regional and local data makes it more likely that data will be used. The Province invites all other Frisian government entities to participate in the platform.


Screenshot of the portal

Data can be hosted in the platform (the Province does this, but also very useful for smaller entities), but those that want to maintain their own infrastructure or already do can also use it as a register and increase findability that way (e.g. Tresoar has been publishing a lot of material, also in the form of linked data for a long time already).

The platform was launched during Connect.FRL, a conference bringing IT employers and students together to try and keep more talent in the region. There all three initiators presented themselves together and also provided insight how they currently use data internally.

Fries Open Data Platform / Connect.frl
The stand of the platform initiators at the Connect.FRL conference

The launch coincides with a challenge for students and others to solve a specific riddle with the now published data, to suggest a concept of how the data can be used, and to create a prototype.

I’ve been working with the City of Leeuwarden in 2012, as well as with the Province in the past 2 years. Employees of Tresoar attended our Mastercourse open data last year, initiated by the National Archives. All that combines now in together delivering this platform. It is especially great to note how currently there is palpable energy within all three participants to move this forward. In the coming time we will work to bring more participants to the table, expand the data on offer, and further align open data efforts in the region.

Fries Open Data Platform / Connect.frl
The banner for the open data challenge