Open Access to Canada's Public Sector Information and Data

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Submitted by TraceyLauriault 2010-06-10 11:28:30 EDT

Theme: Canada's Digital Content
Idea Status: +338 | Total Votes: 370 | Comments: 28

Create a for Canada's public sector information (PSI) and data in parallel with the excellent NRCan GeoConnections model (e.g. GeoGratis, GeoBase, Discovery Portal).

These PSI & data should be shared at no cost with citizens, be in accessible and open formats, searchable with standard metadata, wrapped in public domain or unrestricted user licenses, delivered within an an open architecture infrastructure based on open standards, specifications and be interoperable. It should be governed with open government principles whereby data & PSI are shared first and arguments to restrict are made only for legitimate privacy and security reasons which should also be disclosed. It should have a permanent home and include both the right combination of multi-departmental (e.g. CIC, INAC, HRSDC, NRC, NRCan, etc.) inputs, trans-disciplinary human resources (e.g. Librarians, archivists, scientists) along with IT specialists & engineers. It should be built in consultation with Canadians to ensure it is designed with user needs and useability in mind. (This is how the GeoConnections program built the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure).

The Government of Canada produces administrative data for the purpose of program delivery (e.g. Canada Student Loan, location where new Canadians land, the number and location of homeless shelters, etc.), and it produces data for the purpose of governing for example: the data collected by Statistics Canada (e.g. Census & Surveys, National Accounts); Environment Canada (e.g. air & water quality, location of brown sites); Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (e.g. satellite and radar imagery); Industry Canada (e.g. corporate registry); Canada Revenue Agency (e.g. Charities dbase); National Research Council (e.g. Scientific data); SSHRC (e.g., social science research data) and more. These data have already been paid for by Canadians via taxation, and the cost of selling these data back to citizens on a cost recovery basis is marginal or more expensive (e.g. Cost of government to government procurement, management of licences, royalties, government accounting and etc.) relative to the benefits & reduced overhead of delivering these data at no cost. Furthermore, Canadians often pay multiple times for the same data, since each level of government also purchases the same data, federal departments purchase these data from each other and there are examples where municipalities purchase the same data multiple times from Statistics Canada. This is not only a waste of taxpayer money it goes against the principle of create once and use many times and of avoiding the duplication of effort.

Data & PSI are non rivalrous goods where sharing and open access to these does not impede other from doing so. Open access stimulates research and IT sectors who will have the resources they need for the creation of new data R&D products (e.g. Applications) and services (e.g., web mapping), evidence based decision making (e.g. Population health), and informing public policy on a number of key Canadian issues (e.g. Homelessness, housing, education). In addition, evidence from Canadian City Open Data Initiatives (e.g., Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, and Ottawa) have demonstrated that the cost and time to find and access data & PSI within government have been greatly reduced since finding these are easier and negotiating access becomes a non issue, which in turn brings savings to citizens and greater efficiencies within these institutions. Finally, participatory and deliberative democracies include the active engagement and inputs from citizens, civil society organizations, the private sector, and NGOs along with their government. Making these data available increases the collective knowledge base of Canadians and stimulates public engagement, improves efficiencies, and fuels innovation.

These are already our (citizen's) data & PSI, why not share share them with us and enable citizens and the government to work together to stimulate Canada's economy, create innovative industries and formulate evidence based public policy.

Comments & middot; Please vote - Open Access to Canada's Public Sector Information and Data — 2010-06-10 12:24:45 EDT wrote

[…] vote - Open Access to Canada's Public Sector Information and Data. This is part of the Industry Canada Digital Economy […]

pjohnson — 2010-06-12 09:55:12 EDT wrote

I strongly agree with this submission. Public data should be made public! One only has to look at the success of and to see the incredible spin-off benefits and innovative uses of public data. By liberating data, governments can both save money, increase transparency to the electorate, and provide valuable tools for analysis to a variety of groups.

Dr. Peter A. Johnson
Postdoctoral Researcher
McGill University

Canada's Digital Economy Consultation and perhaps More Open Access to Data | AnyGeo - GIS, LBS, Geo Mashups, Mobile & Social Location Technologies — 2010-06-12 11:55:43 EDT wrote

[…] plans and the road map for the country's digital economy, and also access to open data (see more on that here). See the Digital Economy Consultation at […]

culturelibre — 2010-06-14 11:42:22 EDT wrote

This is a very interesting idea. The use of government or public sector information (PSI) is a great example of the tension between "value" and "utility" with regards to "pricing" in economics. Digital information, as is indicated in this post, are non rivalrous goods (as well as being non excludable), which means that it is difficult to establish the correct "price" (with regards to value & utility) if everyone can have a copy of the original and send it around easily. PSI's value is very high, but utility is undermined by asking a price for it. Therein lies the digital information paradox. What drives the answer is a matter of public policy.

This is partly the reason why the USA places so much PSI in the public domain, as opposed to enforcing Crown Copyright as in Canada. Their public policy of open access fits with the vision PSI can have as a development force for the USA economy. It is much easier to write a business plan if you don't have to obtain licences to use data and reports form the government. This is but an example out of many.

I support the idea of open access very much!

Kind regards,
Olivier Charbonneau, BCom, LLM
Associate Librarian, Concordia University (Montreal)
Doctoral Candidate in Law, Université de Montréal

Canada's Digital Economy Strategy: Two quick actions you can take | — 2010-06-17 12:15:51 EDT wrote

[…] Open Access to Canada's Public Sector Information and Data — Essentially calling for open data at the federal level […] · Open Data — Vote & Submit — 2010-06-19 09:38:54 EDT wrote

[…] 1. Open Access to Canada's Public Sector Information and Data is looking for some votes. […]

marinier3 — 2010-06-19 13:18:16 EDT wrote

I fully agree to this submission. Canada's public sector information and data should be available to public and be user friendly. In research, it would help to avoid spending tax-payers money on duplication of research.

R.A. Lauriault, P.Eng.
NRCan retiree

Craig.Sellars — 2010-06-21 09:22:21 EDT wrote

Compelling argument for open data:
Learning from Libraries: The Literacy Challenge of Open Data

Severely reduce Access to Information requests

Tony04 — 2010-06-21 13:06:13 EDT wrote

I would not like our government to have to pay tax dollars to uncompetitive private telecommunication corporations in order to make available public access to Canada's information and data.

Although the idea of public access to Canada's information and data is noble, Canada needs to have a healthy telecommunication network first. Since all networks are the same in that they evolved to just being data pipes which provide the same content, I feel it would be more efficient and less costly to Canadians if the network was not privately owned and controlled by corporate interests.

Opening Up Canada's Digital Economy Strategy — 2010-06-21 16:00:25 EDT wrote

[…] to an open access approach to government data. [open government proposals at the consult site here and here and […]

G A N I S « Blog Archive » Open Data — Vote & Submit — 2010-06-22 13:21:14 EDT wrote

[…] Open Access to Canada's Public Sector Information and Data is looking for some votes. […]

mlenczner — 2010-06-23 12:00:52 EDT wrote

I am strongly in support of this submission. Unfortunately, I accidentally clicked on the wrong button and voted "against" instead of "for" and there seems to be now way to correct that through my account. Please let me know if that can be reversed.

Michael Lenczner
Director, Ile sans fil

alxjalxj — 2010-07-07 03:01:52 EDT wrote

The Water and Environmental Hub project relies upon organizations large and small and especially the Federal Government to embrace the opportunity that an open data philosophy provides.

We are basing our project on the belief that opening data to the masses opens the opportunity for ingenuity of every Canadian.

Our goal is to minimize the cost to access data, thereby releasing time and dollars to be redeployed towards innovation as opposed to the relatively unproductive activities of data acquisition and formulation.

By making Canada's data open and accessible, we create win-win scenarios for us all.

Alex Joseph
Executive Director — Water and Environmental Hub

mscarth — 2010-07-07 07:00:31 EDT wrote

The Alberta WaterPortal fully supports this initiative to provide open access to Canada's Public Sector Information and Data. Effective and sustainable solutions to our environmental and water management challenges will require the active participation and sharing of knowledge by a wide array of public sector, private industry, watershed and environmental groups and stakeholders, and individuals.

However, access to and sharing of environmental and water information and knowledge still remains one of the most significant challenges to the development of responsible water management policies and plans, as well as to the protection of our watersheds.

Mike Scarth
Executive Director — Alberta WaterPortal

RNavaratnam — 2010-07-07 11:45:21 EDT wrote

Open access to public data makes sense, all cost/benefit factors considered.

rob_giggey — 2010-07-07 16:51:32 EDT wrote

What a great submission. The City of Ottawa fully supports the OpenData initiative, as shown through the creation of our OpenData website: Open Data Ottawa. It's early days for us, but we are hoping to grow our catalogue to include many of types of data cited in this proposal. We are also looking forward to gaining access to the data held by other jurisdictions to help support the delivery of our services to our residents.

Robert Giggey
City of Ottawa

JasonBirch — 2010-07-07 23:43:42 EDT wrote

I am completely in favour of open access to government data.

Requiring fees for access to Census data is particularly wrong. The government compels our participation, and then turns around and sells our (aggregated) data at rates that favour large enterprise over small local businesses, organisations over individuals. Statistics Canada is forcing us to participate in a system that tilts the playing field in favour of large business, stripping our communities of money and family-wage jobs.

Joshua Ramisch — 2010-07-08 08:57:15 EDT wrote

Free and open access to public data is a cornerstone of a modern democracy. It will only strengthen the credibility and accountability of public institutions, and stimulates innovation. The successes of open access in the US and UK show that keeping public data widely and freely available SAVES govt money, without need for user fees.

J. Ramisch (Assoc. Prof., Université d'Ottawa)

Digital Strategy Consultation « Tracey P. Lauriault » — 2010-07-08 13:09:55 EDT wrote

[…] Digital Economy Consultation Submission: I was inspired to submit this one by the list members: Open Access to Canada's Public Sector Information and Data […]

warmerda — 2010-07-08 13:21:21 EDT wrote

I am strongly in favor of greater accessability for government generated data, and agree with the approach described here. I have had very positive experiences with the GeoGratis/GeoBase data services and would love to see this extended to more datasets beyond the geospatial area.

Frank Warmerdam
Director, Open Source Geospatial Foundation · Consultation extended to Tuesday July 13 — 2010-07-08 23:14:02 EDT wrote

[…] Open Access to Canada's Public Sector Information and Data […]

roupen — 2010-07-09 02:52:09 EDT wrote

Je suis tout à fait d'accord avec TracyLauriault en ce sens que tout contribuable Canadien devrait avoir un accès libre aux banques de données gouvernementales, sauf celles dont l'accès est limité pour des raisons de sécurité nationale.

Jean Cermakian
Professeur associé
Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières

WirelessNorth — 2010-07-09 07:08:49 EDT wrote

Crown copyright makes no sense and should be scrapped. We Canadians paid for this content with our tax dollars and we should own it.

For that matter, our tax dollars fully or partially funds an enormous amount of content (through grants, arts funding, everything by the CBC etc.). Much more of this tax-dollar funded content should come with stipulations of being open or creative-commons licensed.

steve_thomson — 2010-07-09 22:09:51 EDT wrote

I concur that the Federal government should undertake an open data initiative now and make data currently warehoused by the government. Canadians have paid for the data and we should have access to it.

Canada needs to lead by example, and as the Consultation Paper suggests, become a model user of digital technologies. By making data more readily available across the enterprise of government, an open data policy can break down the silos that exist between departments and ministries and improve internal policy analysis and decision-making.

At the same time, an open data policy will allow private sector organizations to also mash-up the data to create new applications that provide utility for Canadians.

With a considerable amount of data tied-up at each level of government, municipal, regional, provincial and federal levels — not to mention school boards, health districts and NGO's, the Government of Canada can truly lead the world by example by encouraging its city and provincial partners (and funded NGO's) to also publish their data openly.

Therefore, it is further recommended that the federal government encourage all of its transfer-fund partners to adopt complementary open data policies to encourage cross-jurisdictional mash-ups for even greater analysis and utility.

Of course, all data should be de-identified to protect personal privacy, and reviewed to ensure that its release does not have national security implications.

svgray — 2010-07-12 16:07:47 EDT wrote

One consideration in the provision of open access to data is the archiving of past versions of the data sets provided — preservation of and access to past data is as important as access to current data.

ron — 2010-07-13 07:19:22 EDT wrote

This is an excellent idea. The foundation for a digital economy is data and information. The most successful new digital economy company is Google…. A data company.

The government "owns" a wealth of data paid for by Canadians. As the owners, we should be able to access it in a useful way. This also includes mandatory long form census data. Don't take that away from us!

ZuZu — 2010-07-13 09:30:27 EDT wrote

I support this idea, but it needs to be extended to include greater consideration of metadata and metadata standards. Making data available is one thing, but providing adequate information to allow its appropriate use is at least as important. This will also contribute to so-called "knowledge transfer" within government departments — it often takes some time to get the story behind data, and to understand what comparisons can or cannot be fairly made. · Consultation (real) Results — 2010-07-14 10:18:06 EDT wrote

[…] votes — Open Access to Canada's Public Sector Information and Data, Submitted by Tracey Lauriault 2010-06-10 11:28:30 EDT, CivicAccess List and It was […]


The public consultation period ended on July 13, 2010, at which time this website was closed to additional comments and submissions.

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