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Action plan – Ontario, Canada, 2021 – 2022



Action Plan: Action plan – Ontario, Canada, 2021 – 2022

Action Plan Submission: 2021
Action Plan End: April 2022

Lead Institution: The Ontario Digital Service within the Ontario Ministry of Finance



April 2022

Date Submitted

7th September 2021


AI and automation are important components of global digital infrastructures and government services. However, as with any new technological system, there is the potential for misuse and abuse. Therefore, it is crucial that the use of AI by the government be transparent, accountable, and fair. This needs to be assessed on an on-going basis to build trust, promote equity and inclusion, and diminish bias. This action plan outlines a vision for Ontario to become a leader in digital and open government, while respecting and protecting the rights of Ontarians.

The action plan involves consultations at various stages that will provide opportunities for the public to contribute their feedback and suggestions about government use of AI in Ontario. As Canada’s most populous province, Ontario is a mosaic of different cultures, demographic conditions, and economies. Its diverse population results in a  range of lived experiences and insights that are evident in this action plan. Ontarians have the right to transparent and accountable government.

Since joining the OGP in 2016, the Ontario Government, with the help of the Open Government Team, has demonstrated its commitment to OGP principles. The publication of government data, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, provided the public with a view of Ontario’s data assets, tools and services. In addition, the inclusion of open data principles in the Simpler, Faster, Better Services Act (2019) legislated openness into how the government operates. 

The importance of a strong partnership between government and civil society, partners, and experts cannot be overstated. In co-creating this action plan, Ontario commits to working openly and transparently on these issues. On-going partnerships with legal, human rights, anti-racism, and civil society communities provide ongoing assurances that the implementation of the current plan, as well as the development of future plans, will reflect and serve the people of Ontario.

Open Government Challenges, Opportunities and Strategic Vision

This subsection details the Open Government Strategic Vision in your local area that should guide the commitments for the action plan period.

What is the long-term vision for open government in your context and jurisdiction?

For us, the Open Government initiative is about creating a more open and transparent government for Ontarians – maximizing our digital and data offerings and to ensure that Ontarians are involved in the decisions about the policies that impact their lives. Our government has spent the last two years consulting with organizations, businesses, municipalities, experts and people at large across Ontario to learn about their priorities for government services and how digital approaches can meet these needs in an open government context. Guided by our digital and data strategy, Building a Digital Ontario, we will build a world-leading digital economy that puts people first. Our Open Government initiative builds open elements into the pillars of this strategy to create a joint Digital and Open vision for Ontario.

  • Equipped to succeed – Ontario shares government open data online, so that all sectors, including residents and cities can help co-resolve problems that affect Ontarians every day
  • Safe and secure – Ontario engages with communities to understand and mitigate potential harm to ensure everyone is included and able to benefit from data-informed digital services
  • Connected – Ontarians are provided more opportunities to meaningfully participate in government decision making, to help improve the programs, policies and services that impact Ontarians
  • Supported – Ontarians are provided with the information they want and need, to better understand how their government works

What are the achievements in open government to date (for example, recent open government reforms)?

Ontario’s first Action Plan concluded in 2018, with the successful implementation of all three commitments. In 2019, Ontario furthered our commitment to openness by legislating Open Government principles into our Simpler, Faster, Better Services Act

Ontario has benefited from a strong commitment to openness throughout the recent COVID-19 global pandemic. Extensive open data concerning COVID-19 cases, deaths, demographics, outbreaks and vaccines were made available on Ontario’s websites, dashboards and data catalogue. Feedback from the public informed prioritizing datasets for release and standardization of date fields across related data.

Through consistent work with our stakeholders we recognized the need to broaden our understanding of the open data ecosystem to include other data related assets. In January 2021 we expanded our corporate directive on Open Data to include responsibilities for algorithmic assets, digital services and design standards. The result was the addition of algorithmic assets alongside data on our public catalogue. 

The evolution of Ontario’s Open Data program to include algorithms and early elements of AI has been informed by a government-led public co-creation open data event in 2019 and shared for public refinement on GitHub in June 2020. 

The feedback received on the alpha documents indicated a need for clearer guidance on responsible use of AI and has led to the focus of Trustworthy AI for our next Open Government Action Plan.

What are the current challenges/areas for improvement in open government that the jurisdiction wishes to tackle?

Through consultations, we identified three challenges to guide our action plan development:

  • No AI in secretFor people to trust that AI is safe and appropriate, they must first be aware of the government’s use of AI. As a result, the government needs to be transparent about how, when, and why these tools are used so that people have a right to address potential biases created by the AI algorithms.
  • AI use Ontarians can trust – To protect individual rights and ensure the safe and secure use of AI and automated decision-making requires rules and governance. Those who build, procure, and use AI and automated decision-making systems have a responsibility to the people of Ontario to put appropriate guardrails in place before the technology is used. A risk-based approach will ensure public confidence in the use of AI and automated technologies.
  • AI that serves all Ontarians – As AI-powered technologies continue to develop, they offer new ways to deliver better programs and services to Ontarians. That is why, as adoption increases, it is vitally important that the use of AI upholds democratic principles and individual rights and does not reinforce existing structures of discrimination, expand harmful surveillance, or threaten personal privacy.

What are the medium-term open government goals that the government wants to achieve?

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the need to harness technology. It also demonstrated the importance of taking a user-centred approach, focused on listening and collaborating to  improve the services we provide and the programs we deliver. Sustained, open engagement is key to building trust.

In May 2021 we consulted with the public to explore trustworthy AI use in Ontario. We asked for input on how the responsible use of AI by the government can minimize misuse and maximize benefits for Ontarians. A summary of our findings is available on our website. Raw data from the consultations are available on the Ontario Data Catalogue and submissions received with consent to publish are available on GitHub.

To meet these expectations we will continue to engage with communities, experts and stakeholders to inform meaningful next steps and co-create success outcomes and indicators. 

Looking ahead, the Trustworthy AI Framework is just one initiative under a broader strategy to build an open and digital government. Ontario is also  launching a new Data Authority, a Digital and Data Innovation Fellows program and new sectoral data tables, bringing together the province’s leading technology experts to help us build digital capacity across government as we prepare for the recovery from COVID-19 through better collaboration and sustained engagement.

How does this action plan contribute to achieve the Open Government Strategic Vision?

Open Government Vision: Ontario is a leader in digital and openness

OGP Action Plan Focus: Building a framework for Trustworthy AI use in Ontario

The co-creation and implementation of Ontario’s action plan demonstrates a commitment to openness and transparency in government use of algorithms and artificial intelligence. The commitments outlined in this action plan will support Ontario’s open government vision using the four pillars of our Digital and Data Strategy to focus on the challenges of trustworthy AI use:

  • Equipped to succeed: Ethical principles and guidance are in place for the responsible use of AI by the government and its chosen vendors
  • Safe and secure: Ontario develops the right checks and balances needed to reduce harm
  • Connected: Ontarians have more ways and opportunities to ask questions, inform the use of AI, and to challenge and change unfair decisions.
  • Supported: Ontario discloses when and how AI is used by the government, to help Ontarians understand how AI is impacting their lives and informing government decisions.

By co-creating the action plan with the public, civil society and experts and sustaining their involvement in its implementation, Ontario is contributing to its Open Government Strategic Vision of openness, accountability and transparency to build a more caring, equitable, inclusive, open and digital government.

How does the open government strategic vision contribute to the accomplishment of the current administration’s overall policy goals?

Putting People First

Ontario’s government works to put people first in all our services, programs and policies. The Open Government Strategic Vision of co-creation, transparency and accountability, is exemplified in Ontario’s approach to a data informed, people-led government.

Evidence-based policy in Ontario is supported by its open data program, which facilitates inter-ministerial data sharing, as well as the publication of data on Ontario’s public data catalogue. Consultation and collaboration in the form of user research, public feedback mechanisms, and user-centred program development also contribute to the involvement of civil society in government decisions.

Engagement and Coordination in the Open Government Strategic Vision and OGP Action Plan

Please list the lead institutions responsible for the implementation of this OGP action plan.

  • The Ontario Digital Service within the Ontario Ministry of Finance

What kind of institutional arrangements are in place to coordinate between government agencies and departments to implement the OGP action plan?

The Ontario Digital Service leads both the Open Government Leads Network and AI practitioner’s Community of Practice within the Ontario Public Service with representatives from all provincial ministries. Open government and digital initiatives are endorsed by the central government and ministries and agencies must attest each year they have met Open Government responsibilities.

What kind of spaces have you used or created to enable the collaboration between government and civil society in the co-creation and implementation of this action plan? Mention both offline and online spaces.

The COVID-19 pandemic limited offline opportunities to connect with the community during the co-creation period, but offline spaces will be created once in-person gatherings are permitted.

  • Ethical AI Slack environment: An online space for provincial ministry and agency staff to discuss AI, data and other related issues and share information and updates
  • Online survey​: Respondents were asked to rank the proposed action items from 1 (most important) to 3 (least important)​. Respondents were also able to provide qualitative feedback through open text boxes​
  • Community events​: Various community groups hosted virtual events, at which participants could discuss their feedback and concerns with members of the ODS AI team ​
  • Email submissions​: Individuals and organizations were able to submit discussion papers, resource documents, reports, and emails directly to the AI team ​
  • Multi-stakeholder Panel: A panel of six independent non-government stakeholders was convened to oversee the consultation process and offer suggestions on maximizing public involvement.

What measures did you take to ensure diversity of representation (including vulnerable or marginalized populations) in these spaces?

Following the recommendations from our Multi-Stakeholder Panel we were able to include direct reach outs to contacts for marginalized or vulnerable groups. We also reached out to the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council and the Anti-Racism Directorate to identify additional participants. We recognize that there are populations we were unable to reach during the initial public consultation. In the spirit of continuous improvement, the Province is committed to hearing from as many voices as possible. That is why consultation efforts on these issues are on-going and are a major focus of our commitments.

Who participated in these spaces?

  • Civil society​
  • Open data​
  • Academia​
  • Youth/students
  • Artificial intelligence​
  • Legal​
  • Health equity ​
  • Anti-racism​
  • Rural Ontario​
  • Privacy​
  • Digital and data​
  • Human rights​
  • CivicTech​
  • Accessibility

How many groups participated in these spaces?


How many public-facing meetings were held in the co-creation process?


How will government and non-governmental stakeholders continue to collaborate through the implementation of the action plan?

Stakeholders will be informed on the progression of the action plan milestones and town hall meetings and public discussions will be held as implementation continues. Ontario will also ensure that the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council and the Anti-Racism Directorate are included in discussions and activities throughout the implementation phase of the action plan. 

Please describe the independent Monitoring Body you have identified for this plan.

The GO Open Data Association is a community-led organization dedicated to open data and community engagement. They facilitate open dialogue and collaboration among all stakeholders that have an interest in the open digital community. There is also a focus on knowledge sharing and skills building on topics related to open data, open government and the open digital community.

The monitoring body will be led by Jury Konga, Executive Director, and is composed of community members who have experience working in the open data and open government spaces. This group is also familiar with the Ontario government’s open data and open government initiatives and will be able to provide skilled oversight of the implementation of the action plan.

Provide the contact details for the independent monitoring body.

What types of activities will you have in place to discuss progress on commitments with stakeholders?

The IMCE Panel will meet regularly as milestones are reached to discuss progress and advise on actions to reach upcoming milestones. Discussions will also take place with the monitoring body to share milestone progress and goals. Meetings with key stakeholders to inform next steps and provide direction on meeting milestones will also be held throughout the implementation of the plan.

How will you regularly check in on progress with implementing agencies?

Ontario Digital Service teams will lead regular check-ins on progress with the implementing agencies, as well as provide and manage clear communication and open workspaces (i.e. Slack channels) and produce reports to executive champions as milestones are reached. These reports will also support public reporting to OGP and updates to webpages.

How will you share the results of your monitoring efforts with the public?

Regular updates to Open Government Action tracker on and related web pages with links to OGP action tracking/reporting to support validation and accountability. We will promote achievements, consultations and progress through our communications teams and channels including social media and encourage civil society partners to do the same. Consistent messaging from partners will help show active collaboration alongside messages of openness to collaboration.

Endorsement from Non-Governmental Stakeholders

  • Tracey Lauriault, Associate Professor, Carleton University
  • Merlin Chatwin, Director of Research and Impact, Open North
  • Connie McCutcheon, Digital Transformation Consultant, Niagara Region
  • Nicole Goodman, Associate Professor, Brock University

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