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Canada

Provide and Preserve Open Information (CA0045)

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; Library and Archives Canada; Public Services and Procurement Canada

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

E-Government

IRM Review

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

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Provide and Preserve Open Information Why do this: Canada has made significant progress on improving public access to government data under its last two Action Plans. By improving access to other forms of government information and ensuring preservation of this information, the Government of Canada can promote and maintain informed participation and sound decision-making. How will it be done: The Government of Canada will provide enhanced, centralized, one-stop access to digital content from departments and agencies across government. Guidance will be provided to The Government of Canada will integrate performance indicators for openness and transparency into a Performance Management Framework for Open Government. ensure the ongoing preservation of this information through the application of consistent standards and practices for long-term preservation.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

4. Provide and Preserve Open Information

Commitment Text:

The Government of Canada will establish government-wide initiatives, platforms, and tools to ensure that open information is discoverable and accessible for use by future generations.

Milestones:

4.1. Enhance the Open Information Portal on open.canada.ca to improve access to digital publications made available by the federal government and develop a strategy to ensure the sustainability of access over time.

4.2. Develop and publish clear guidelines on the preservation and retention of digital content.

4.3. Increase Canadians’ access to records documenting the continuing memory of the Government of Canada.

4.4. Update Library and Archives Canada’s online archive of the Government of Canada’s web presence to ensure Canadians’ long-term access to federal web content.

4.5. Expand the implementation of the government-wide information technology solution for the effective management of federal records and documents (GCDOCS) as a foundation for improved transparency:

Roll out this common solution managed by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to 125,000 government workers across government departments by June 2018.

Responsible institutions: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat; Library and Archives Canada; Public Services and Procurement 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 aims to resolve challenges to the preservation and accessibility of information that result from a lack of clear government guidance around how information should be found, used, shared, and preserved. This commitment is relevant to the OGP value of access to information by helping to ensure that a proper paper trail is maintained for potential requesters.


This issue was the subject of a major legal battle between the Information Commissioner and the government when, in 2015, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police destroyed gun registry records that were subject to a request.[Note47: Bruce Cheadle, 'Constitutional challenge of retroactive Tory law on gun registry data in limbo,' Canadian Press, 29 March 2016. Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/court-challenge-gun-registry-data-law-1.3511277.] The development of a clear policy on the preservation of digital material was also one of five ‘SMART’ recommendations included in Canada’s 2015 IRM report. However, although the commitment addresses an important area, most of the milestones, except for Milestone 4.5, suffer from a lack of specificity. For example, the commitment does not outline how the Open Data Portal will be enhanced, or how Library and Archives Canada will be updated. The low specificity makes it difficult to accurately assess progress and ultimately limits the potential impact that can be scored in this assessment. Moreover, the organisation of this commitment is somewhat confusing, as it includes some milestones related to data preservation, but others that seem more connected to Commitment 3: Expand and Improve Open Data.

Completion

The government self-assessment reports limited progress on Milestone 4.1, including the relaunch of both the Open Information Portal[Note48: See: http://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset?portal_type=info&q.] and registry.open.canada.ca, the latter of which replaces three distinct publishing platforms. Four government departments (Canadian Heritage, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Natural Resources Canada and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat) are collaborating on the development of an Open by Default Pilot Project.[Note49: See: http://pilot.open.canada.ca/en/open-by-default-pilot.] Future steps contemplated in the self-assessment include providing guidance on the scope of open information as well as the accessibility and official language requirements for new content. There is no reason to believe that the government will not achieve this milestone, as written, by June 2018, though the vague nature of the phrasing makes progress difficult to assess critically.

According to the self-assessment, the task of developing guidance on retention and disposition rules for digital content (Milestone 4.2) has been delegated to the Open Government Resource Development Working Group. Draft guidelines were developed and released for public comment to government stakeholders as well as the Open Canada Working Group (which comprises provincial and territorial partners).[Note50: The draft guidelines are available at: https://gccollab.ca/file/group/29260/all# (registration required).] In response to follow-up queries from the IRM researcher, the Treasury Board Secretariat reported that they aim to publish the final version on open.canada.ca by the end of December 2017. Substantial progress has been made, and this milestone is on track for completion.

The self-assessment notes that a large number of files have been placed online by Library and Archives Canada, including 8,161,794 pages of government records, 150,000 personnel files from the First World War, and 45 historical datasets.[Note51: See: http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/personnel-records/Pages/personnel-records.aspx.] By June 2018, the government estimates that a further 240,000 pages, 160,000 personnel files, and 45 datasets will be released. This is certainly a large volume of information, suggesting the commitment is on schedule, though again the lack of specificity in the milestone makes a proper assessment of progress difficult.

Regarding Milestone 4.4, the government self-assessment reports that Library and Archives Canada has collected 3.34 terabytes from the Government of Canada web domain, and an additional 1 terabyte of information from Government of Canada YouTube Channels.[Note52: 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 self-assessment reports that this information is still being indexed, and once that is done the material will be publicly available. This is substantial progress and the milestone is on schedule.

Regarding Milestone 4.5, the self-assessment reports that the GCDOCS program has been rolled out to 85,000 federal government workers thus far, giving them access to a standardised archiving and records management system which ensures consistent information infrastructure across participating institutions.[Note53: At the time of research, in October 2017, that number had grown to 94,000, according to figures shared by Public Services and Procurement Canada with the IRM researcher.] This is substantial progress and the milestone is on schedule.

Next Steps

The development of a clear policy on the preservation of digital material was one of five ‘SMART’ recommendations included in Canada’s 2015 IRM report. However, if Milestone 4.2, which addresses this issue most directly, is not fully implemented in the current action plan, the IRM researcher recommends carrying it forward to the next action plan. In consultations around the government’s open data and open science policies, Dr. Tracey Lauriault suggested that the government should consider equivalent preservation policies toward raw research data, which can be of tremendous use to researchers.[Note54: Interviewed in Ottawa, 19 September 2017.] Preservation policies are particularly important to consider in light of data which has been taken down from government sites under the federal Web Renewal Initiative, in some cases leaving significant gaps for researchers.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

4. Provide and Preserve Open Information

Commitment Text: The Government of Canada will establish government-wide initiatives, platforms, and tools to ensure that open information is discoverable and accessible for use by future generations.

Milestones:

4.1. Enhance the Open Information Portal on open.canada.ca to improve access to digital publications made available by the federal government and develop a strategy to ensure the sustainability of access over time.

4.2. Develop and publish clear guidelines on the preservation and retention of digital content.

4.3. Increase Canadians' access to records documenting the continuing memory of the Government of Canada.

4.4. Update Library and Archives Canada's online archive of the Government of Canada's web presence to ensure Canadians' long-term access to federal web content.

4.5. Expand the implementation of the government-wide information technology solution for the effective management of federal records and documents (GCDOCS) as a foundation for improved transparency:

Roll out this common solution managed by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to 125,000 government workers across government departments by June 2018.

Responsible institution: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat; Library and Archives Canada; Public Services and Procurement 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 aimed to resolve challenges to the preservation and accessibility of information. Such challenges result from a lack of clear government guidance around how information should be found, used, shared, and preserved. The commitment planned to:

Enhance the Open Information Portal on open.canada.ca;

Develop and publish guidelines on data preservation;

Increase access to historic records;

Update Library and Archives Canada's online archive; and

Expand the implementation of the government's GCDOCS to effectively manage federal records and documents.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

The midterm assessment rated substantial overall progress on this commitment, including the relaunch of the Open Information Portal (Milestone 4.1).[Note30: See “Open Government Portal,” Government of Canada, http://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset?portal_type=info&q.] The Open Government Resource Development Working Group developed draft guidelines on retention and disposition of digital content for public comment (Milestone 4.2).[Note31: The draft guidelines are available at: https://gccollab.ca/file/group/29260/all# (registration required).] Library and Archives Canada placed several hundreds of thousands of historic files online (Milestone 4.3),[Note32: See “Personnel Records of the First World War,” Library and Archives Canada, http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/personnel-records/Pages/personnel-records.aspx.] and it collected an additional 4.34 terabytes of material for indexing (Milestone 4.4).[Note33: 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.] According to the government's midterm self-assessment of Milestone 4.5, the GCdocs programme was rolled out to 85,000 federal government workers by the end of the action plan's first year.[Note34: Available at “Provide and Preserve Open Information—Commitment 4,” Government of Canada, https://open.canada.ca/en/commitment/mtsar/2016-2018/commitment-4-provide-and-preserve-open-information.]

End of term: Substantial

All milestones, apart from 4.2, were completed.

The vague phrasing of Milestone 4.1 makes it difficult to assess, but it appears to have been completed. Completion includes the launch of the government's Open Government Metadata Application Profile and consolidation of multiple search functions on the open.canada.ca website.[Note35: See “Open Government Metadata Application Profile,” Government of Canada, https://open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/dbe5e27e-cc10-5e2e-b116-8d9b977ae6fd.] Regarding Milestone 4.2, discussion of the draft guidelines on retention and disposition of digital content are ongoing, according to the government's end-of-term self-assessment. The government has thus far been unable to reach consensus.[Note36: The self-assessment is available at https://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/9da9faf5-deb1-48db-8f16-91055d942d65.] Under Milestone 4.3, the government released substantial additional material. According to the self-assessment, the government made available 10,498,631 pages through block review and 7.8 million images of historical military records.[Note37: See, for example, “Personnel Records of the First World War.”]

Under Milestone 4.4, the self-assessment states that approximately six terabytes of data were made available during the second year of implementation.[Note38: The self-assessment is available at https://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/9da9faf5-deb1-48db-8f16-91055d942d65.] The self-assessment also notes that the data is being migrated to a new platform. The new platform will expedite data publication. Regarding Milestone 4.5, the self-assessment reports that the GCdocs programme was rolled out to 133,526 federal government workers over the course of the action plan. Of these programmes, approximately 50,000 participated in the second year of implementation. The number of programmes falls well ahead of the 125,000 targeted in the milestone.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

This commitment intended to address one of the IRM SMART recommendations included in Canada's 2015 IRM report, namely to develop a clear policy on the preservation of digital material. It also includes other measures aimed at enhancing the findability and digitization of historical data. The government also made available a large volume of additional material and improved the Open Information Portal. However, the data preservation policy was not completed. This constituted an important action area. The large volumes of information made available under Milestones 4.3 and 4.4 are relatively limited in scope. Enhanced information management stands as a potentially more important development (4.5). However, the GCDOCS system (4.5) has been rolled out to only a proportion of the federal public service, and the broader impacts of this rollout remain to be seen. This commitment is coded as having a marginal impact. It likely would have scored higher had the data preservation policy been completed.

Carried Forward?

The data preservation policy (4.2), which was not completed under the third action plan, has not been included in the fourth action plan. In response to queries from the IRM researcher, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat said that it was working with Library and Archives Canada to determine next steps. The two bodies will also identify how the work done thus far should be utilised going forward. This has implications particularly for developing the upcoming Government of Canada Digital Policy and regarding the broader work related to Canada's data strategy.[Note39: Email received on 28 August 2018.] In line with the recommendations in the 2015 midterm assessment—and reiterated in the 2017 midterm assessment—the IRM recommends that Canada develop a clear policy on the preservation of digital material. Ideally, the policy should also apply to raw research data.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership