The Next Generation of Open Data in ArcGIS Online

Alex Lange
Alex Lange, Solution Engineer

Beginnings: Open Data Sites

Open data is a key concept for GIS users: access to data is the only way to build analysis, applications and any project that relates to spatial locations.

Back in 2014, Esri created what was known as ArcGIS Open Data,  a way for ArcGIS Online (AGO) users to have a web format to download open data. As more and more local governments and businesses embrace and, consequently, rely on open data, these sites became more important. But before long open data was re-formatted into a new tool, known as ArcGIS Hub.

New Kid on the Block: ArcGIS Hub

Back in May of this year Esri made an important update to ArcGIS Hub, a tool now designed for public engagement and a way to bring many GIS maps and apps together under an initiative.

The main change came with a new side panel that shows access to ArcGIS Online item details and a new Full Page detail page.

These new features are not only important to Hub users but also those that are interested in open data. Once an AGO item is accessed, a side panel opens with a map view on the main screen. The side panel highlights the following information:

  • Dataset Type
  • Info Update Date​
  • Data Update Date​
  • Published Date​
  • Record Table​
  • Sharing Status​
  • License Information

Focusing on those three dates, here are the details: Info Update - this data updates when you alter the metadata of the item in ArcGIS Online; Published - the data when the item was published; and Data Updated - when was the data itself has last been changed. This last date can be used in conjunction with Editor Tracking to automatically show when updates are happening by a manual process or a scripted one.

A new Full Details Page is also available to help convey more information and options such as Summary​, Tags​, Attribute Fields, Related Data and Share.

This page is like the previous versions, but now has a much more streamlined and user-friendly feel. Not only does this help public consumers of the data see what is available to download but some information about the dataset as well; it also allows staff to view data from other parts of the organization and know exactly what is available or where to ask questions about it.

As for the actual downloading of the data, this can be done in several formats and in either the side panel or full details page.

Old Concept, New Look: Open Data Hub

This update to the number of ways in which open data can convey information has paved the way to develop the next generation of open data sharing. As this was the original goal of ArcGIS Hub sites, it is fitting that using the new tools and configurations available in ArcGIS Hub to develop a new, more in-depth, way of sharing open data can be a target for many organizations.

First is the use of pages. Hub site initiatives can have pages added outside of the main page created when a new Hub is developed. By using pages, linked in the main Hub site, we can create a focus on one or more datasets that we can add more information outside the traditional metadata. Using Summary Statistics, Charts, Embedded maps, and list partners who may have contributed to the dataset or its maintenance.

Each of these elements can not only highlight pieces of data but it can also include descriptions of how the dataset is created and maintained.

So, why is this important? Hub sites allow the public or non-GIS users to interact and make decisions using GIS data. Using text, web maps or web applications has been a great way for GIS to showcase all of an organization’s data.

But, sometimes, it is just as important to focus on the dataset, its creation or maintenance rather than using the data’s actual information.

The time is right to turn our attention back to open data and use Hub to, once again, highlight the work your organization is doing in GIS. But this time, instead of giving users an application, we are giving them the opportunity to learn about the data itself and why it is important to your operations.

Sample deployment of Open Data in ArcGIS Hub (images: Esri)