Northern Ireland backs open data for schools’ projects

Department of Finance awards £20,000 to competition winners to develop educational tools using government portal

Northern Ireland’s Department of Finance has awarded £20,000 each to two projects using open data in tools to support education in schools.

It has announced that Gaff Game and Our Raging Planet are winners of the Open Data Challenge, in which entrants were invited to come up with ideas using the OpenDataNI portal.

OpenDataNI Challenge logoThis follows a phase in which six submissions received £2,500 each for the development of a prototype. The two winners should now develop fully functioning teaching resources to be available free of charge to Northern Ireland schools for at least three years.

Gaff Game, created by IT consultancy Neueda, encourages students to learn Structured Query Language for programming in a real life context using data 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, and is closely aligned to the learning outcomes of the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) Software Systems Development A-level.

Earthquakes and volcanoes

Our Raging Planet, created by business and science firm Flax & Teal, is aimed at geography students from 11 to 16 years, enabling them 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 of earthquakes, storm surges and volcanoes on local landmarks, such as playing pitches and schools.

Both companies are now 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 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.