Understanding Open Data: The Citizen's Guide

About the Nova Scotia Open Data Portal

The Nova Scotia Open Data Portal was launched in February of 2016 with an aim to make government data more accessible to the public to support government transparency and openness, spur social and economic benefits of government data, and empower citizens and businesses to innovate and create with government data.

Useful How To's 

We've pulled together some screenshots and videos on this page to help you search for data and use some of the portal's built-in functionality. Some of the information we'll cover includes:
  • Navigating the homepage
  • Searching the open data catalogue
  • How to interact with the data

Navigating the Homepage

Below is an image of the Nova Scotia Open Data Portal's homepage. We're going to breakdown the homepage section by section. 
Navigating the Homepage

Section 1: Menu Links

This section contains several useful links: 
  • Home brings you back to the homepage data.novascotia.ca
  • Catalogue takes you to the data catalogue where you can browse through the data
  • User's Guide links to Socrata's videos - we've included some of these videos below for direct access from this page
  • Developers opens a page created by Socrata with resources, support materials, and tips and tricks for developers who want to programmatically access and use open data
  • ≡ Survey ≡ takes you to our Open Data Survey where we hope you will provide responses that we can use to help us improve the Nova Scotia Government's Open Data Portal 

Section 2: Search Box

You can use this box to enter search terms and quickly see a list of matching data assets. For more targeted searches can can always begin with Catalogue Links (Section 3).

Section 3: Catalogue Links

These tiles take you directly to the catalogue or to specifically sorted or filtered views. The top row includes a link to the full catalogue, and three sorted views of the data by access frequency, by newly released, and by recently updated. The second row of tiles are category groupings. These filter the catalogue and return only the data related to a specific category. The four categories are Social Services, Business and Economy, Government Administration, and Nature and Environment. Each category can be broken down further on the main catalogue page.

How to Search and Browse the Catalogue

This catalogue is the gateway to all of the data and visualizations, such as charts and maps, that can be found on the Nova Scotia Open Data Portal.
How to Search and Browse the Catalogue

Section 1: Search Box

At the top of the main catalogue is a search box. Any terms you enter here will be searched for matches in the title, description, category, and tags. Socrata uses stemming search functionality which means searches use the root stem of each word. So if you search for the work "funding" your results will also include data with the words "funds", "funded", and "fund". This broadens your search results to help you find the data you are looking for.

Section 2: Search Results

The results of your search are displayed here. You can click on each data listing to view, and if desired, download the data. the default display for the search results is by most relevant. the box in the upper right-hand area of this section allows you to change the sorting of the results to alphabetical, by most accessed, by recently added, or by recently updated.

Section 3: Filter Options

There are four different filter options you can select to refine your search and create more targeted results. You can apply multiple options as needed but only one for each type of filter.
1. Categories
Data is grouped according to one of four categories described earlier: Social Services, Business and Economy, Government Administration, and Nature and Environment. These can be broke down even further in the catalgoue by clicking the down arrow next to a category and selecting on of the subcategories.
2. Types
The open data portal contains a variety of data types such as datasets, maps, charts, and filtered views. If you are looking for a particular type of asset, like a map, you can apply a filter to search for only those types of assets.
3. Departments
All departments or agencies with data currently released on the portal can be found here. Simply click the "Show All..." button to expand the view and select the department from the list.
4. Tags
Tags, or keywords, are applied to data when they are uploaded to the portal and help to further categorize the listing for easier search and retrieval. Although similar to categories they are more specific to the actual data and its context.

Now that you're more familiar with the portal and how to search for data, here's a few videos created by our portal provider Socrata that demonstrate how to interact with data and explore some of the Open Data Portal's Features

Sort a Dataset

Basic Filtering

Search in a Dataset

Sort a Dataset
Basic Filtering
Search in a Dataset

Aggregate Data

Create a Chart

Create a Map

Aggregate Data
Create a Chart
Create a Map

Nova Scotia Open Data Portal Survey
Thank you for visiting the Nova Scotia Open Data Portal. Please click on the link above to provide us information on how you use open data, your visit today, and your use of open data portals in general. This information will help to inform us on ways we can improve the portal to better meet visitor's needs. Your survey responses are anonymous.