June 2013

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Today the federal government announced that it would make Canadian public sector information (PSI), or administrative data (admin data) or government data more accessible and useable.  A new portal was launched, data are now being disseminated under a more open licence and some additional services are being provided and there is an apps gallery and a developers corner.

This announcement coincides with today’s endorsement of the G8 Open Data Charter.

The licence gets high marks!  It is more open and is less restrictive.  The Government consulted on this file and listened to experts.  Teresa Scassa, Canada’s Research Chair in Information Law provides an excellent overview of the new licence here. Interestingly, BC, Ontario and Alberta will also be adopting this licence, which demonstrates legal interoperability between jurisdictions.  This is excellent.

The Portal is still a little buggy, and folks on the Civicaccess.ca list are reviewing its features and commenting on it.  See the archived threads here.

In terms of data, the issues I am concerned about do not yield any results, homelessness for example yields National Household Survey, clearly there are some tagging issues.  I also searched charity, charities, business, business registries, poverty and the results were either null or sub-par.  Cities yielded close to 800 hits while health outbreaks yielded none and brown fields yielded 4.  When data are accessed the interface, description, and location map are very good, as seen here.

The new Search Summaries of Completed ATI Requests is also very useful and this should simplify the access to information (FOI requests) process and reduce costs.  I was happy to find homelessness information in it, and it is interesting that these data are not linked with those in the portal.  Some work to be done here.

I will need to engage with it more, however, overall it is an improvement over the Pilot.  Please send me your comments here at tlauriau at gmail dot com

In terms of a more open government and greater transparency!  This is one good step in that direction, but we have a few other issues, such as a cancelled census, a lack of a data archive, the bullying of NGOs who speak out against the government, the muzzling of scientists, the closing of monitoring stations, a lack of evidence based policy and the decimation of the Library and Archives Canada.  Soo…..


Canada has signed on to the G8 Open Data Charter. The official UK G8 Presidency site includes the Charter and its associated technical Annex.  This Charter falls under one of this year’s G8 agenda items, which is to promote greater transparency. The main points of the charter are:

  1. Principle 1: Open Data by Default
  2. Principle 2: Quality and Quantity
  3. Principle 3: Usable by All
  4. Principle 4: Releasing Data for Improved Governance
  5. Principle 5: Releasing Data for Innovation

The G8 countries have committed to the following 3 actions:

  • Action 1: G8 National Action Plans
  • Action 2: Release of high value data (List is pasted below)
  • Action 3: Metadata mapping

These are all good things.  The devil will be in the details and implementation in Canada will depend on collaboration and interoperability between provinces, territories, cities and municipalities and the federal governments.  It will be interesting to see how crown corporations such as Canada Post, Canada Housing and Mortgage and Corporation (CMHC), CBC/Radio Canada and others fare.  At the moment, it there is uncertain if these are to follow the same rules.

The list of high value data that should be released somewhat overlap with information collected by the Open Knowledge Foundation Open Data Census.  Note the postal code data requested under geospatial, this is a big ask for Canada especially in light of the Geocoder copryright lawsuit instigated by Canada Post. Digital Copyright Canada has also done some good work on the postal code file.

It will be very interesting to see if greater access to data will mean an increase in evidenced based policy making and greater participatory democracy. The government will need to be more receptive to citizen input, and so far, if the census and issues around science are any indication, this does not look promising.  Releasing data is one thing, acting on the evidence and having the mechanisms in place and willingness to hear from citizens is another.

Data Category (alphabetical order) Example datasets
Companies Company/business register
Crime and Justice Crime statistics, safety
Earth observation Meteorological/weather, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting
Education List of schools; performance of schools, digital skills
Energy and Environment Pollution levels, energy consumption
Finance and contracts Transaction spend, contracts let, call for tender, future tenders, local budget, national budget (planned and spent)
Geospatial Topography, postcodes, national maps, local maps
Global Development Aid, food security, extractives, land
Government Accountability and Democracy Government contact points, election results, legislation and statutes, salaries (pay scales), hospitality/gifts
Health Prescription data, performance data
Science and Research Genome data, research and educational activity, experiment results
Statistics National Statistics, Census, infrastructure, wealth, skills
Social mobility and welfare Housing, health insurance and unemployment benefits
Transport and Infrastructure Public transport timetables, access points broadband penetration