Open Data Challenge - stimulating education and innovation

Date published: 12 June 2017

An open data challenge launched in June 2016 is set to reap benefits for both the education and private sectors in Northern Ireland. It challenged participants to create new and innovative resources using data from OpenDataNI, the public sector open data portal, to assist with teaching in schools.

Six winning submissions were awarded £2,500 to develop a prototype and two of these were selected for Phase II, each securing a £20,000 award to develop a fully functioning teaching resource, free of charge for schools in Northern Ireland for a minimum period of three years.

The two winning projects are:

Gaff Game – created by Rose Kane Quinn of Neueda

Gaff Game is an engaging, fun application that teaches students to learn a programming language - SQL (Structured Query Language) - in a real-life context using datasets from OpenDataNI. The game challenges users to find the best place to live in Belfast using the location of playgrounds and schools, as well as crime data. It employs gamification techniques such as repetition, achievement and ease of use to help users learn in a fun and innovative way. It is closely aligned to the learning outcomes of the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) Software Systems Development A-level.

Our Raging Planet – created by Phil Weir of Flax & Teal Limited

Raging Planet project is aimed at geography students from 11 to 16 years. It is a human impact education tool which allows students to view basic simulations of natural geographic disasters that happen in other parts of the world in their local area. It uses public sector open data to estimate the impact on familar local landmarks, such as playing pitches and schools. The simulation of earthquakes, storm surges and volcanoes in a local environment which the pupils are familiar with can assist teachers in demonstrating the implications of natural disasters through local services and surroundings.

Following on from the success of the challenge, both Neueda and Flax & Teal are planning to develop their teaching resources into commercial products to sell to other areas.

Paul Wickens, Chief Executive for Enterprise Shared Services at the Department of Finance said: “The excellent response to this open data challenge is testament to the appetite among the digital community to apply their skills and ideas to use public sector open data in order to deliver innovative solutions with far ranging impact.”

The impact of OpenDataNI has been recognised on a global stage. Each year, Open Knowledge International, (a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting publication of government open data around the world), conducts an Open Data survey which ranks participating nations and regions around the globe, based on the availability of their key open datasets (covering a range of subjects such as statistics, air & water quality, and mapping data). For the first time, Northern Ireland has been included in this survey, and the rankings show that NI has placed 6th out of the 94 nations/regions assessed, 

The Open Data Challenge was jointly funded by the Department of Finance and the Department for the Economy on behalf of the NI Digital Catapult and supported by Ulster University, ODI Belfast, Catalyst Inc. and CCEA.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The public sector open data portal is available at
  2. The Open data Strategy was published in January 2015 and can be found on the DoF website. The OpenDataNI portal was launched in November 2015.
  3. The aim of the Open Data Strategy is to embed a culture of ‘open by default’ within the public sector here to drive public service efficiency, encourage innovation, and improve the economy. Public sector data on OpenDataNI is free to copy, adapt, commercially exploit and publish.
  4. More details on Our Raging Planet can be found on the Our Raging Planet website and more details on Neueda’s Gaff Game can be found on the Neueda website.
  5. Follow us on twitter @dptfinance and like the Facebook page at
  6. For media enquires please contact the DoF Press Office on 028 9081 6724 or email For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.

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