Not so long ago we were in contact with David Eaves, a Canadian public policy analyst and open government data advocate (who advises the Mayor of Vancouver about open data and open government), about starting an catalogue for Canadian open government data. A couple of weeks ago he and a small team of coders and advocates launched a citizen driven catalogue called, which we’re proud to say is powered by CKAN!

  • The site uses the CKAN software under the hood with a Drupal front end – and they’ve added some nice features like a custom input form (with Canadian government departments, license options and suchlike), and a ‘league table’ showing which departments share most datasets:

Colin Calnan, who helped work on the site, has just posted details of the technical work involved in getting an instance up and running, Drupal integration and so on. Following are a few excerpts from his post:

For the benefit of the programming and Drupal community, I’m going to run through, with the aid of code samples, the development of the Drupal module to communicate with the CKAN API (which is where the data is stored). I’ll also walk through Theming, integration with Google Charts, Tag Clouds and most importantly, caching.

What is CKAN?

> CKAN is a registry or catalogue system for datasets or other “knowledge” resources. CKAN aims to make it easy to find, share and reuse open content and data, especially in ways that are machine automatable.

CKAN is a nice big database that is built to accept user input of the type of data we’re trying to collect for It has a slick front and back end that allows administrative access to the collected data.
You can find out more on their website.


In order to utilize the power of CKAN I needed to link it up to Drupal. CKAN has a powerful and flexible API that I used extensively in the module.

The Foundation

Early on in the project I got in touch with the wonderful team at CKAN and they then put me in touch with Sean Burlingford from the development team. They had also built their site in Drupal and Sean had lots of information on how they tweaked their CKAN site to work with Drupal. He worked hard to open source some of the work that they had done, and released it just in time for us to get started. Sean’s module provided the basic API connectivity we needed to get started and was the foundation for our module.

The Build

How do you integrate Drupal with the CKAN API? Let’s start with the basics: […]

There’s lots more of the technical nitty gritty (including code snippets) on Colin’s post (and more to come soon, he assures us!).

If you are interested in starting an instance of CKAN for open (government) data in your country, drop us a line on our ckan-discuss list where there is a growing group of developers and translators who can help you to get something up and running!

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Dr. Jonathan Gray is Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, where he is currently writing a book on data worlds. He is also Cofounder of the Public Data Lab; and Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam) and the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris). More about his work can be found at and he tweets at @jwyg.

7 thoughts on “Canadian citizen-driven data catalogue is powered by CKAN”

  1. I’ve heard CKAN before and reading your post makes me more interested with it. Would you mind sharing more information about CKAN when you used it in your project? thanks

  2. I think that CKAN software is really helpful to finish the project especially for datasets or other “knowledge” resources. I want to have more information about this kind of software. How could I get more info about CKAN?

  3. CKAN is very helpful when you’re in a bit of hurry. This will easily help you to find some research paper share and reuse open content and data, especially in ways that are machine automatable.

  4. Never heard of the thing called CKAN but if that thing or system will work and benefit most of the people, you should continue your great beginning.

  5. now that’s what we can call transparent governance! it’s great that canada has decided to provide easier access for information to its people. CKAN sounds like an amazing tool. will definitely check that out and learn more about it!

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