Guide

Open data opportunities for business

Open data is increasingly opening up new revenue streams and other opportunities for businesses in Northern Ireland.

Vast ranges of data - mainly from government and public sector sources - are becoming freely accessible. This generates valuable opportunities for business to launch new products or services, or grow and improve their existing ones.

What is open data?

Open data is non-personal information that anyone can access, use and share. For data to be considered open, it must be:

  • published in an accessible, machine-readable format
  • available for anyone to use, reuse and share it
  • published under a licence that says it is open data

Examples of open data include:

  • geospatial and mapping data
  • national statistics data
  • transport data
  • labour market statistics
  • crime statistics data
  • road safety data
  • health inspection data
  • weather and environment data

See the definition of open data according to the Open Data Institute.

Business opportunities of open data

Open data is abundant and free. This makes it a potential source of great opportunities for all businesses, regardless of their location, size or sector.

You can use open data to:

  • start a new business
  • launch a new product or service
  • enrich an existing product or service
  • gain better intelligence on your business or your competitors
  • provide innovative solutions, such as data interfaces and visualisations
  • learn more about your customers
  • create better user experience for customers or clients
  • enter new markets
  • tap into priority sector opportunities, such as health, energy and finance

You can build your business entirely on open data, or use it only as part of your work. If you’re not sure where to start, see a simple intro to open data.

Browse examples of data-driven mobile apps and visualisations.

How to find open data

Open data can come from many sources. Most common ones include:

  • government departments
  • public sector bodies
  • local councils
  • universities and research institutions
  • community projects and non-for-profit groups
  • corporate information and disclosures, such as company registers and filings
  • consumer data
  • customer reviews

Over 10,000 UK datasets are currently freely and publicly available through data.gov.uk.

In Northern Ireland, you can search for open data via the OpenDataNI portal.

OpenDataNI portal

The portal hosts data from government departments and other public sector organisations in Northern Ireland.

Data is available in datasets across a range of themes, including:

  • health
  • education
  • economy, industry and employment
  • transport
  • finance
  • tourism, leisure, culture and arts
  • property and land
  • environment and agriculture
  • population and society

On the portal, you can:

  • search for specific datasets or browse particular subjects
  • preview and examine the data using the Data Explorer tools
  • download the data to view on your own computer and link to other resources
  • stream feeds of data using Application Programme Interfaces (APIs)
  • suggest future datasets that you’d like to see

All data published on the OpenDataNI portal falls under the Open Government Licence.

Access the OpenDataNI portal.