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Canada

Expand and Improve Open Data (CA0044)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Canada Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat; Statistics Canada

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Access to Information, E-Government, Open Data, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Canada End-Term Report 2016-2018, Canada Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Major Major

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Expand and Improve Open Data Why do this: Open data has the potential to transform how government officials make decisions and how citizens interact with government. By providing a range of quality open data from reliable sources, Canada will support informed participation and engagement in the development of programs, services, and policies by citizens and government workers alike. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that its data is open by default. Data 13 must be discoverable, accessible, and reusable without restriction so as to enhance transparency, enable better services to Canadians, facilitate innovation, and inform public participation. How will it be done: Over the last five years, federal departments and agencies have established a good foundation of available open data. The Treasury Board Secretariat’s current Directive on Open Government requires federal departments to maximize the release of eligible government data and publish Open Government Implementation Plans outlining how they would implement the Directive’s requirements. The next step is about increasing the diversity, timeliness, and quality of data released, to maximize the potential impact of the reuse of the Government’s data by Canadians. As an example, Statistics Canada will increase access to high-quality statistical information in open formats, including releasing all 2016 Census data a full 10 months sooner than the 2011 Census. Steps will also be taken to ensure the data are well understood by Canadians. In addition, a key focus will be placed on streamlining and improving the process by which departments proactively disclose information on government spending and human resources online. Finally, the Government of Canada will continue to take advantage of opportunities to share best practices and work with data experts both nationally and internationally to improve its own open data services and support the release of high quality data.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

3. Expand and Improve Open Data

Commitment Text:

The Government of Canada will increase the quality and visibility of federal data holdings and set measurable targets for the release of open data over the next five years.

Milestones:

3.1. Develop and publish departmental inventories of federal data, as required by the Directive on Open Government, to support collaboration with the public on setting priorities for the release of open data.

3.2. Set a baseline for the total volume of open data to be released over time and establish departmental targets for the publication of releasable data over the next five years:

Publish departmental targets and progress on departments’ release of open data.

3.3. Develop and refine guidance to help federal departments and agencies set priorities for the release of high-value open data and understand the specific circumstances under which data cannot be released for privacy, security, and/or confidentiality reasons:

Establish data quality standards for open data;

Provide guidance on engaging with key communities in Canada (e.g., First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, etc.) to better understand their needs when setting priorities for the release of open data;

Develop metadata standards to enhance data interoperability and discoverability; and

Develop guidance on the anonymization of datasets.

3.4. Provide access to high-quality, open statistical data and information from Statistics Canada, free of charge, in machine-readable formats under an open license and accessible via open.canada.ca:

Release the results of the 2016 Census (Short Form and Long Form) in 2017 based on a published release schedule; and

Host on-line 'Chat with an Expert' and in-person 'Talking Stats' sessions to enable Canadians to interact with Statistics Canada analysts and better understand the published data.

3.5. Improve Canadians’ access to data and information proactively disclosed by departments and agencies through a single, common online search tool:

Enhance self-service tools for departments to publish proactive disclosure information to strengthen the quality of data being released.

3.6. Adopt the International Open Data Charter and initiate implementation of the Charter requirements:

Encourage civil society and private sector organizations to open up their own data where this would be of public benefit; and

Measure progress and report on Canada’s implementation of Charter principles.

Responsible institutions: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat; Statistics Canada

Supporting institution(s): N/A

Start date: Not specified

End date: Not specified

Editorial Note: The text of the commitment was abridged for formatting reasons. For full commitment text, visit: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Canada_AP3.pdf.

Context and Objectives

This commitment is not built around a particular problem, but rather contains a series of measures which aim to boost the quality, visibility, and accessibility of open data. In addition to expanding the total amount of information available, the commitment aims to unify standards for publication and enhance systems for accessing data. The milestones are reasonably specific, and most of them are objectively verifiable, though they require some degree of interpretation in terms of measurability. In most cases, the milestones would generate important progress if fully implemented, such as simplifying and expediting the publishing process for public agencies. In assessing this commitment, civil society stakeholders who participated in the consultations generally found the measures encouraging, though there were common concerns about ease of use and how user-friendly the system is, particularly for researchers or journalists seeking fully contextualized information about a particular issue.[Note25: Toronto consultation, 15 September 2017.] Therefore, the commitment’s potential impact is marked as moderate.

Completion

Milestone 3.1 has been completed. The self-assessment reports 89% of large departments, 61% of small departments, and 4% of micro-organisations submitted their open data inventories as of October 2016, in line with the deadline set by the Treasury Board.[Note26: The draft self-assessment is available at: http://open.canada.ca/en/mtsar/draft-consultation-mid-term-self-assessment-third-biennial-plan-open-government-partnership.] The Treasury Board published these data inventories online in March 2017.[Note27: The inventories are available at: http://open.canada.ca/en/search/inventory.] A voting system has been implemented to allow Canadians to weigh in on future prioritization for open data initiatives.

Over the first year of the action plan, 4,000 new non-spatial datasets and 27,000 new geospatial datasets were published on open.canada.ca. Representatives of the Treasury Board reported that government departments are required by the Directive on Open Government to develop plans for the release of future datasets, but that these have not been consolidated or published.[Note28: Directive on Open Government, last modified 16 September 2016. Available at: http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=28108.] As a consequence, substantial progress has been made toward implementing Milestone 3.2, but it does not appear that this milestone is on track to be completed, since the departmental targets are not being gathered for publication.

Regarding Milestone 3.3, the self-assessment reports that an interdepartmental Open Government Resource Development Working Group has been established, and is developing a guidance document on data quality, accessibility, official languages, privacy and security, prioritisation, anonymisation, and metadata standards.[Note29: The draft self-assessment is available at: http://open.canada.ca/en/mtsar/draft-consultation-mid-term-self-assessment-third-biennial-plan-open-government-partnership.] The government also hosted a workshop on facilitating indigenous participation at the Canadian Open Data Summit in Edmonton in June 2017. This milestone is on schedule to be implemented.

For Milestone 3.4, the dissemination of the 2016 census results is proceeding according to an established calendar.[Note30: Available at: http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/rt-td/index-eng.cfm.] The government’s self-assessment reports that five 'Chat with an Expert' sessions and four 'Talking Stats' sessions were held in the first year of implementation, though transcripts suggest that only four and three actually took place, respectively.[Note31: See: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/chatwithanexpert/transcripts and http://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/events/past-eng.] Nonetheless, substantial progress has been made here, and the milestone is on schedule.

In relation to Milestone 3.5, the Treasury Board Secretariat produced templates for a range of disclosures, including grants and contributions,[Note32: Available at: http://pilot.open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/add1c674-6653-5b6f-bbd1-e9671112ef31. ] position reclassifications,[Note33: Available at: http://pilot.open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/958a0d91-acdc-5cf5-8297-543296ca1652. ] acts of founded wrongdoing,[Note34: Available at: http://pilot.open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/a55305ee-4974-59aa-a4ea-e334baf0f321. ] annual contracts,[Note35: Available at: http://pilot.open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/f377fa50-7686-5317-9d5c-2aaa58c1afe2. ] hospitality expenses,[Note36: Available at: http://pilot.open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/42071198-1928-5ce8-8e72-9daf00a8d79e. ] and supplemental hospitality information.[Note37: Available at: http://pilot.open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/88b847b4-da78-5f4b-9de0-5b1c3fdc4e44. ] The Treasury Board Secretariat also published guides for producing access to information summaries,[Note38: Available at: http://pilot.open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/d893fc48-df79-5ec2-99c3-1f7db4067bc5. ] centralized hospitality publishing,[Note39: Available at: http://pilot.open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/c53bc147-c412-582f-8b4d-8647b2211308. ] centralized grants and contributions publishing,[Note40: Available at: http://pilot.open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/345db334-b036-595e-af22-deceb0c64d3b. ] and for using the Annual Travel, Hospitality and Conferences Publishing System.[Note41: Available at: http://pilot.open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/3509d5f4-676d-534e-b508-b5f5f3cf6303.] The self-assessment further reports that departments are migrating their proactive disclosure to open.canada.ca. This milestone is on track, and substantial progress has been made toward its implementation.

The self-assessment reports limited progress towards implementing Milestone 3.6 based on the fact that Treasury Board Minister Scott Brison announced on 9 December 2016 that Canada will adopt the International Open Data Charter,[Note42: 'Government of Canada shows global leadership on open government,' Treasury Board Secretariat, 9 December 2016. Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/treasury-board-secretariat/news/2016/12/government-canada-shows-global-leadership-open-government.html.] and that Canada is a Lead Steward of the Open Data Charter, an advisory board, of representatives from government and expert organisations who guide the work of the Charter.[Note43: See: https://opendatacharter.net/who-we-are/.] Assessing progress on implementing the Charter’s principles depends on the level of implementation expected, but based on the language of the milestone, Canada should be able to complete it within the timeframe of this action plan.

Next Steps

This commitment contains several important action areas which could be carried forward in future action plans. However, in considering the impact of these specific commitments, it is worth pointing out that the number of 'Chat with an Expert' and 'Talking Stats' sessions which took place between July 2016 and June 2017 is identical to the number which took place over the preceding year, though, if the self-assessment planning is accurate, that number will increase over the second year of the action plan cycle. Connected to the idea of fostering open communication, Open North suggested that Canada’s open data landscape could be improved by fostering more public access to data managers themselves, who are best placed to contextualize information being released as well as to shape future policy around publication.[Note44: Montreal Consultation, 20 September 2017.] Open North further suggested, regarding Milestone 3.5, that it would be beneficial to reduce the internal procedure required for public servants to publish information.[Note45: Montreal Consultation, 20 September 2017.]

Powered By Data noted an ongoing need to expand the conversation about open data to include more policy-makers, researchers, and civil society beyond the open data community that typically engages on this issue.[Note46: Interviewed by phone, 29 September 2017.] The IRM researcher recommends bringing the conversation beyond online consultations, and establishing more of an in-person presence, in addition to more interactive means of remote communication such as via teleconferences.

The Centre for Law and Democracy pointed to Milestone 3.1 as addressing a particularly important action area, through its potential to generate citizen feedback loops regarding the data which is made available, and recommended that this milestone be taken forward to future action plans.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

3. Expand and Improve Open Data

Commitment Text: The Government of Canada will increase the quality and visibility of federal data holdings and set measurable targets for the release of open data over the next five years.

Milestones:

3.1. Develop and publish departmental inventories of federal data, as required by the Directive on Open Government, to support collaboration with the public on setting priorities for the release of open data.

3.2. Set a baseline for the total volume of open data to be released over time and establish departmental targets for the publication of releasable data over the next five years:

Publish departmental targets and progress on departments' release of open data.

3.3. Develop and refine guidance to help federal departments and agencies set priorities for the release of high-value open data and understand the specific circumstances under which data cannot be released for privacy, security, and/or confidentiality reasons:

Establish data quality standards for open data;

Provide guidance on engaging with key communities in Canada (e.g., First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, etc.) to better understand their needs when setting priorities for the release of open data;

Develop metadata standards to enhance data interoperability and discoverability; and

Develop guidance on the anonymization of datasets.

3.4. Provide access to high-quality, open statistical data and information from Statistics Canada, free of charge, in machine-readable formats under an open license and accessible via open.canada.ca:

Release the results of the 2016 Census (Short Form and Long Form) in 2017 based on a published release schedule; and

Host on-line “Chat with an Expert” and in-person “Talking Stats” sessions to enable Canadians to interact with Statistics Canada analysts and better understand the published data.

3.5. Improve Canadians' access to data and information proactively disclosed by departments and agencies through a single, common online search tool:

Enhance self-service tools for departments to publish proactive disclosure information to strengthen the quality of data being released.

3.6. Adopt the International Open Data Charter and initiate implementation of the Charter requirements:

Encourage civil society and private sector organizations to open up their own data where this would be of public benefit; and

Measure progress and report on Canada's implementation of Charter principles.

Responsible institution: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat; Statistics Canada

Supporting institutions: N/A

Start Date: Not specified

End Date: Not specified

Editorial Note: The text of the commitment was abridged for formatting reasons. For full commitment text, visit http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Canada_AP3.pdf.

Commitment Aim

This commitment contained many milestones which aim to boost the quality, visibility, and accessibility of open data. In addition to expanding the total amount of information available, the commitment aimed to unify standards for publication and enhance systems for accessing data. Specifically, the commitment set out to:

Develop and publish departmental inventories of federal data;

Set overall baselines and departmental targets for publishing open data;

Develop guidance for prioritising high-value open data and for privacy, security, and confidentiality restrictions;

Expand Statistics Canada's open data offerings;

Develop an online search tool for information disclosed by departments and agencies; and

Adopt and initiate implementation of the Open Data Charter.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

As of the end of June 2017, 89 percent of large departments, 61 percent of small departments, and 4 percent of micro-organisations submitted their open data inventories. These inventories were published by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, fulfilling Milestone 3.1.[Note12: The draft self-assessment is available at http://open.canada.ca/en/mtsar/draft-consultation-mid-term-self-assessment-third-biennial-plan-open-government-partnership.] The government made substantial progress toward Milestone 3.2 by expanding overall publication. However, it had not yet set departmental targets.[Note13: “Directive on Open Government,” Government of Canada, last modified 16 September 2016, http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=28108.] The government had also commenced work on a guidance document, in line with Milestone 3.3.[Note14: The draft self-assessment is available at http://open.canada.ca/en/mtsar/draft-consultation-mid-term-self-assessment-third-biennial-plan-open-government-partnership.] It had also disseminated 2016 census results[Note15: Available at “Topics, 2016 Census,” Statistics Canada, http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/rt-td/index-eng.cfm.] and held a number of “talking stats” sessions in line with Milestone 3.4.[Note16: See “Transcripts,” Statistics Canada, http://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/chatwithanexpert/transcripts; and “Past Events,” Statistics Canada, http://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/events/past-eng.] The government made significant progress consolidating published information on the open.canada.ca website (Milestone 3.5).[Note17: See, for example, a template for reporting on grants and contributions at “Data Element Profile – Grants and Contributions,” Government of Canada, http://pilot.open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/add1c674-6653-5b6f-bbd1-e9671112ef31. ] Furthermore, Canada has become a lead steward of the Open Data Charter (Milestone 3.6).[Note18: See “Who We Are,” Open Data Charter, https://opendatacharter.net/who-we-are/.] For more information, please see the 2016-2017 IRM midterm report.[Note19: Michael Karanicolas, Canada Progress Report 2016-2017 (Washington, DC: Open Government Partnership Independent Reporting Mechanism), https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/canada-mid-term-report-2016-2018.]

End of term: Complete

Milestone 3.1 was completed in the first year of the action plan. For Milestone 3.2, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat released the departmental targets for 2018 and 2019 on its Progress Tracker for Open Data. That tracker was launched in June 2018.[Note20: See “Progress Tracker for Open Data,” Government of Canada, https://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/b94ff2b5-9adc-4951-ab07-c7430dee01d2.] The government launched the guidance document under development for Milestone 3.3 on 27 June 2018. It includes guidance on data and information quality standards, anonymising datasets, public outreach and engagement, and the metadata elements used to describe datasets and assets added to open.canada.ca.[Note21: The Open Government Guidebook is available at https://open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/9eaa6d0e-4b8c-5241-acf7-c6885294b8c1.]

Following the publication of the 2016 census results (3.4) in the second year of implementation, Statistics Canada published data from nine additional categories. These categories included education,[Note22: See “2016 Census Topic: Education,” Statistics Canada, http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/rt-td/edu-sco-eng.cfm.] housing,[Note23: See “2016 Census Topic: Housing,” Statistics Canada, http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/rt-td/hous-loge-eng.cfm.] and immigration and ethnocultural diversity.[Note24: See “2016 Census Topic: Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity,” Statistics Canada, http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/rt-td/imm-eng.cfm.] Statistics Canada also held 10 additional “Chat with an Expert” sessions,[Note25: See “Chat with an Expert: Education Indicators in Canada: An International Perspective, 2018,” Statistics Canada, https://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/chatwithanexpert.] three “Talking Stats” sessions,[Note26: See “Past Events,” Statistics Canada, https://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/events/past.] and two events as part of the Speaker Series for Canada 150 (3.5).[Note27: See “Telling Canada's Story in Numbers,” Statistics Canada, https://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/canada150.] In March 2018, Canada finally formally adopted the Open Data Charter.[Note28: See Scott Brison, president of the Treasury Board, Letter to Members of the Advisory Board of the Open Data Charter, 12 March 2018, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4pnyLgEJbI6SGItV1g1M0xPSFZ3S0dZX0M3MUhOdHBDelE4/view.] In June 2018, the government posted a document assessing progress toward full implementation of the charter's principles.[Note29: See Moses Iziomon, “Canada Open Government Working Group (COGWG)”, available at: https://gccollab.ca/file/view/903273/progress-on-open-data-charter-implementation (registration required).]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Major

Civic Participation: Major

Canada's previous action plans included a strong focus on open data. Such plans included passing the “Directive on Open Government.” That directive requires federal departments to maximise the release of eligible government data and to publish Open Government Implementation Plans outlining how they would implement the directive's requirements. In the current action, Canada aimed to build toward automating open data releases and ingraining transparency and openness into government processes. It also aimed to increase the diversity, timeliness, and quality of data released, and to maximise the potential impact of the data and its reuse by Canadians. Over the course of the current action plan, the government made substantial gains. In particular, it expanded the volume and quality of information available from Statistics Canada and other institutions. It also expanded information available through the open data inventories. The latter serve as a critical step to allowing the public to understand what information might be available.

In terms of civic participation, Canada's adoption of the Open Data Charter constitutes an important step forward. It involves collaborating with many of the world's leading nongovernmental organisations in the open data sector. Moreover, the public outreach sessions should also help to facilitate data uptake by civil society and the public at large. Thus, the sessions will further benefit the open data landscape.

Carried Forward?

Canada's fourth action plan includes commitments to improve the quality of open data available on open.canada.ca (Milestone 1.3). It also plans to enhance open data guidelines as they apply to privacy (Milestone 1.5).


Commitments

Open Government Partnership