March 2010

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2010.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities in its work on Quality of Life Reporting in Canada’s 24 big cities has just released its 6th thematic report:

Mending Canada´s Frayed Social Safety Net: The role of municipal governments

These reports are really loaded with Municipal, Provincial and Federal administrative data on a wide variety of topics.

Collecting data from cities is incredibly difficult, it gets worse at the provincial level, and improves somewhat at the Federal level with some departments being better than others.

I hope that Open Data movements and initiatives in Canada will inspire all of our public sectors. Our 3 at times 4 levels of government will hopefully begin to coordinate their information and data resources and make them more readily available to the public.

Canadian’s need more evidence based reporting than ever, to manage the smaller finacial morsels coming back to our cities, and it is reports like these that help us inform those decisions. Clearly, we have been missing some evidence!

Benedict Anderson’s wonderful book on nationalism Imagined Communities introduced the idea of simultaneity. Print media, back in the day, especially in vernacular languages (i.e. not latin) enabled the reading of the same ideas in different places at the same time (i.e. the morning paper) for the first time. This, he stated, created unity and a form of distributed collective identity, a disparate community bound by ideas, in some cases forming a nation.

Eduardo Galeano, in his book Soccer in Sun and Shadow did the same as Anderson, in his case it is not through print media but instead soccer that community, a shared identity and a nation are created:

“All Uruguayan babies are born crying, ‘goal’,” the Uruguayan writer and soccer aficionado Eduardo Galeano said over coffee recently. Perhaps, that’s how a country of three million or so could have won two World Cups and two Olympic gold medals. It also helps explain the country’s level of despair after Uruguay’s dramatic World Cup elimination at the feet of the Australian Socceroos last November in a penalty shootout.


In Canada, some say it is Hockey. In my case, I would say, Olympic Hockey, as I do not pay attention to the sport at any other time, it is just not a part of my reality, it is not a marker of my identity. Yet, like millions of others, I demonstrated a sense of patriotism and participated in the national act of watching the Canada – US Gold Medal men’s Game.

And what does that have to do with data? Well, back to simultaneity – more so the measuring of it.

EPCOR, the water utility in Edmonton measured water consumption during the game, and as seen in the graph below.


The EPCOR spokesman Tim le Riche, explains:

“The chart does tell us that Edmonton hockey fans are pretty dedicated,”

Water use plummeted below normal right at the 1:30 p.m. faceoff time.

Usage held around 370 megalitres (ML) until the first intermission, when use skyrocketed to 450 ML within minutes.

There was less water used during the second period and even less in the third.

Use dropped to 320 ML near the end of the game, when the U.S. scored a tying goal at about 3:30 p.m., and again when Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal in overtime.

Usage skyrocketed to 460 ML immediately after the medal ceremony.

It’s assumed most of the spike is due to bathroom use, said le Riche, though it would also include water used in the kitchen and in bars.

Data analysis at its best!

Flowing Data: Canada: the country that pees together stays together
Pat’s Papers: What If Everybody in Canada Flushed At Once?
Edmonton Sun: EPCOR charts fan flushes
Smart Planet: Infographic: Water consumption in Edmonton, Canada during Olympic gold medal hockey game

The City of Ottawa is discussing Open Data. On March 1. 2010 a Report to City of Ottawa: Information Technology Sub-Committee / Sous-comité de la technologie de l’information was discussed between and among City staff & councilors and three members of the public.

The discussion yielded quite a bit of press in all the Ottawa Daily’s and on CBC:

Tracey p. Lauriault was interviewed on CBC Radio’s drive home show All in A Day by Alan Neal today. The meaning of open data for every day people and for the municipal democratic process was discussed. An MP3 clip of the interview is available upon request, just leave a comment w/your email address.

Ottawa Citizen: Sub-committee examines benefits of open data policy, by Neco Cockburn, March 2, 2010.

Le Droit: La Ville d’Ottawa compte devenir plus transparente – La capitale veut mettre en place une politique d’accès libre à ses données, par Dominique La Haye, 2 mars 2010.

Ottawa Sun: City mulls ‘open data’ for mobile phone apps, By Jon Willing, City Hall Bureau, March 2, 2010.

Ottawa Citizen: Need city data? Nope. There’s no app for that…Advocates of open data say making city info readily available in a format programmers can use would help citizens navigate services and save the city money. By By Neco Cockburn, March 8, 2010.


This is a big week!

Friday, March 5 all day, there is a fantastic conference at Ottawa University for the inauguration of the Centre for Law, Technology and Society: Taking Stock of Tech: Reflections on Law, Technology and Society. The conference Program is fantastic and includes some of the world’s foremost authorities on things law, infrastructure, data, socio-tehnology…

Thursday, March 4, Cambridge Room of the Holiday Inn, 111 Cooper Street in downtown Ottawa at 5:00 p.m., Lecture: Zeroing In: Infrastructure Ruins and Datalands in Afghanistan and Iraq by Dr. Lisa Parks, chair of film and media studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB)

Parks will analyze satellite images of declassified pictures of bombed sites in Afghanistan and Iraq in the context of the American policy that limits access to satellite images due to U.S. national security interests, as well as discussing some of the controversy surrounding the use of Google Earth..

Today, March 1, The City of Ottawa IT-Sub Committee meeting discussed Open Data.
3 Constituents spoke: John Whelan from Open Street Map (OSM) Ottawa, Hacktivist Edward Ocampo-Gooding and Tracey P. Lauriault.
I characterize the sentiment as cautious optimism, with concerns regarding the private sector capitalizing on open data, cost recovery, and cost priorities of the city. The argument was made that business being innovative with data was good as they are our employers, our tax payers and our revenue generators.
There was great support from Councilor Legendre, Rideau-Rockliffe Ward, stating that the most dangerous argument being made was for ‘democracy’. He was also very surprised that the City did not already have such a an open data policy in place. The Chair of the Committee, Councillor Wilkinson Kanata Ward, was very interested in different applications, while Councillors Chiarelli, College ward and Desroches of Gloucester-South Nepean Ward, expressed concern for costs to implement and the loss of potential revenue generating activities. Bref – The ideas of open data, open access or open government were new to all the councillors and my take is much education is required to help our representatives understand the issues.
City Staff did a great job putting together a presentation showcasing other city initiatives, innovative applications, benefits to the city and the demand for this by citizens.