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Canada

Align Open Data Across Canada (Open Data Canada) (CA0057)

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

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Capacity Building, E-Government, Open Data

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

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Align Open Data across Canada (Open Data Canada) Why do this: Across Canada, different governments at the federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal levels have varying levels of open data implementation. While some governments have launched open data portals and made numerous datasets available, others do not have official open data or open government policies or initiatives. Furthermore, governments set priorities for different types of data for release, which may make it difficult for Canadians to compare data across jurisdictions. Each government may also measure and record data differently, which can make it difficult to compare data even when that data is open. The true value of open data can really be unlocked when similar, high-value data is released using consistent, standardized approaches, so that Canadians can easily compare data among departments, across geographic locations, and over time. How will it be done: The Government of Canada has made preliminary progress with its counterparts at the provincial/territorial level on the development of common open data principles, common licencing, and promotion of the reuse of open data. Moving forward, the Government of Canada will work with other levels of government to expand collaboration across jurisdictions and to develop a list of high-value datasets that are priorities for governments to release. This work will help increase the comprehensiveness of open data available to Canadians and encourage comparability of data across different governments. In addition, work will begin with one or more provincial partners to collaborate on a pilot project that will allow users to search data from multiple governments via a common portal. This pilot project will provide an opportunity to accelerate data standardization efforts and better understand the challenges and opportunities associated with federated search

IRM Midterm Status Summary

16. Align Open Data across Canada (Open Data Canada)

Commitment Text:

The Government of Canada will expand collaboration with provincial, territorial, and municipal partners on further standardizing and harmonizing the delivery of open government data across jurisdictions.

Milestones:

16.1. Foster the adoption of common open data principles that are consistent with the International Open Data Charter by all levels of government.

16.2. Develop a list of high-value, priority datasets for release in collaboration with key jurisdictions to make it easier for Canadians to compare data across different governments.

16.3. Launch an online, federated, multi-jurisdictional open data search service in partnership with one or more provinces and territories to allow Canadians to search and access data from across jurisdictions, regardless of its origin.

16.4. Host a national Open Data Canada summit in 2017 to bring together federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal officials to collaborate on setting a national agenda for aligning and improving the delivery of open data across the country.

Responsible institution: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Supporting institutions: Provinces, territories, municipalities, and Indigenous Peoples

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 mitigate the challenges that Canadians face in obtaining and comparing information from different jurisdictions by fostering common open data principles in line with the International Open Data Charter, developing a list of high-priority datasets for release, launching an online open-data search service, and hosting an Open Data Canada Summit in 2017. Some of the milestones, in particular 16.1 and 16.3, are continuations of action areas included in the previous action plan. However, as a federal system, whose governments at the national, provincial, territorial, and municipal levels have differing priorities and standards for collecting and publishing information, standardisation is a difficult problem to tackle. As Fred Vallance-Jones of the University of King's College, noted, it answers a strong need to 'break down the balkanization' of the current system.[Note138: Halifax consultation, 12 September 2017.] The milestones are reasonably clear and specific, except for the Milestone 16.2, which could be improved by defining how many datasets and how many collaborating jurisdictions will be involved. There is a substantial gap between the potential impact of the different milestones, but overall the commitment is reasonably ambitious. In particular, a move toward common data standards at every level of government in line with the International Open Data Charter would be game-changing for researchers or civil society organisations who work across jurisdictions.

Completion

Over the course of the first year of implementation, the government’s attempt to develop common open data principles (Milestone 16.1) was carried out in collaboration with Open North. Open North worked to develop a Do-it-Yourself (DIY) Open Data Toolkit for Canadian municipalities in consultation with fifteen Canadian municipalities, the federal government, and the International Open Data Charter group.[Note139: See: http://open.canada.ca/en/blog/coming-soon-do-it-yourself-open-data-toolkit.] The Canadian Open Government Working Group has developed a draft plan for expanding open data activities going forward. The Open Government Working Group also shared actions on the adoption of the International Open Data Charter at 2017 Canadian Open Data Summit, and created a collaborative space for collecting Open Data Charter resources. The government reports substantial progress on their self-assessment, which seems accurate, though implementing this standard across the country’s different levels of government will be a monumental task, which may be challenging to complete in the course of the current action plan.

The government’s self-assessment reports limited progress on Milestone 16.2, which is currently being carried out in collaboration with the provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia. A draft work plan has been developed, along with a criteria tool for identifying high value datasets for prioritization.[Note140: The work plan is available for download at: https://gccollab.ca/file/view/71053/encogwg-work-plan-draft2017-06-19frcogwg-work-plan-draft2017-06-19 (registration required).] Although the low specificity of the milestone makes it difficult to assess, it seems likely that the datasets will be released by June 2018.

The Treasury Board Secretariat developed a draft work plan on a cross-jurisdiction federated search service (Milestone 16.3), which will be piloted by the provinces of Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec.[Note141: The work plan is available for download at: http://pilot.open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/5cc8b7ea-1fb2-527c-a73f-824da6ef69a6.] The self-assessment notes that the deliverable is at risk of not being completed by the end of the action plan cycle, though this should be understood in the context of the complex and challenging nature of the project.

In line with Milestone 16.4, the Canadian Open Data Summit took place in Edmonton from 12-14 June 2017.[Note142: See: http://opendatasummit.ca/.] At that event, the Government of Canada hosted a meeting of the Canadian Open Government Working Group on June 12 to discuss thematic areas of collaboration across the country. This milestone has been completed.

Early Results

An early result from this commitment has been a change in tone among inter-jurisdictional working groups, along with an increase in collaboration and joint meetings, according to Open North.[Note143: Montreal Consultation, 20 September 2017.] This is important since, in a federal system, strong collaboration and open engagement among the different levels of government are essential pre-requisites for aligning open data practices.

Next Steps

Canada’s federal structure, and the inability of the national government to compel compliance among provincial and municipal counterparts, means that this action area is likely to be a long-term challenge. Implementing common open data standards will require ongoing federal leadership, as well as an important supporting role by civil society organisations like Open North.

In addition to working cross-jurisdictionally, the IRM researcher recommends that the government work to enhance implementation of strong open data standards across the federal government itself. Even within the current action plan, stakeholders noted that disclosures under Commitments 11 (information from grant recipients) and 17 (information from companies subject to the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act) failed to meet best practices in terms of formatting and searchability. Indeed, in terms of standardisation challenges, Mike Gifford of OpenConcept Consulting noted that there are still differences across departments regarding the format of how dates are written.[Note144: Interview by phone, 12 October 2017.] In discussing this commitment, Open North also noted that Canada has yet to adopt the international open data charter, though the province of Ontario and the city of Edmonton have.[Note145: See: https://opendatacharter.net/adopted-by-countries-and-cities/.] The IRM researcher recommends making this an area of priority for the next action plan.

As standardisation work progresses, Dr. Tracey Lauriault noted that it was important to maintain a parallel focus on integrating datasets, since both components are key to breaking down the jurisdictional boundaries that limit data use.[Note146: Interviewed in Ottawa on 18 September 2017.]

IRM End of Term Status Summary

16. Align Open Data across Canada (Open Data Canada)

Commitment Text: The Government of Canada will expand collaboration with provincial, territorial, and municipal partners on further standardizing and harmonizing the delivery of open government data across jurisdictions.

Milestones:

16.1. Foster the adoption of common open data principles that are consistent with the International Open Data Charter by all levels of government.

16.2. Develop a list of high-value, priority datasets for release in collaboration with key jurisdictions to make it easier for Canadians to compare data across different governments.

16.3. Launch an online, federated, multi-jurisdictional open data search service in partnership with one or more provinces and territories to allow Canadians to search and access data from across jurisdictions, regardless of its origin.

16.4. Host a national Open Data Canada summit in 2017 to bring together federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal officials to collaborate on setting a national agenda for aligning and improving the delivery of open data across the country.

Responsible institution:Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Supporting institutions: Provinces, territories, municipalities, and Indigenous Peoples

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 mitigate the challenges that Canadians face in obtaining and comparing information from different jurisdictions. It planned to foster common open data principles in line with the Open Data Charter and develop a list of high-priority datasets for release. It also intended to launch an online open-data search service and host the Canadian Open Data Summit in 2017.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

Over the course of the first year of implementation, the government worked with Open North, a civil society organization, to develop a Do-it-Yourself Open Data Toolkit for Canadian municipalities. The government consulted 15 municipalities and the Open Data Charter group in the development.[Note137: See “Coming Soon: Do-It-Yourself Open Data Toolkit!” Government of Canada, http://open.canada.ca/en/blog/coming-soon-do-it-yourself-open-data-toolkit.] The Canadian Open Government Working Group developed a draft plan for expanding open data activities going forward. The group also shared its activities at the 2017 Canadian Open Data Summit and created a collaborative space for collecting Open Data Charter resources. Regarding Milestone 16.2, the government created a draft work plan and a criteria tool for identifying high-value datasets for prioritisation. On this, it collaborated with the governments of Quebec and Nova Scotia.[Note138: The work plan is available for download at https://gccollab.ca/file/view/71053/encogwg-work-plan-draft2017-06-19frcogwg-work-plan-draft2017-06-19 (registration required).] Under Milestone 16.3, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat developed a draft work plan on a cross-jurisdiction federated search service. It collaborated with the provinces of Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec.[Note139: The work plan is available for download at http://pilot.open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/5cc8b7ea-1fb2-527c-a73f-824da6ef69a6.] The government completed Milestone 16.4 as the Canadian Open Data Summit took place in Edmonton from 12 to 14 June 2017. The summit included a meeting of the Canadian Open Government Working Group.[Note140: See homepage, Canadian Open Data Summit '18, http://opendatasummit.ca/.]

End of term: Complete

Regarding Milestone 16.1, the most significant development since June 2017 has been Canada's own adoption, in March 2018, of the Open Data Charter.[Note141: 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.] This constitutes an important step forward. Also worth noting, the milestone is responsive to a recommendation in the IRM's 2017 midterm assessment. The government completed this milestone.

Regarding Milestone 16.2, on 28 June 2018, the Canada Open Government Working Group published 17 high-value datasets to be prioritised for release by federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments across Canada.[Note142: See “Multilateral Intergovernmental Collaboration on Identifying Datasets of High Value,” Government of Canada, https://open.canada.ca/en/blog/multilateral-intergovernmental-collaboration-identifying-datasets-high-value.] The government completed this milestone.

Under Milestone 16.3, the government launched the federated open data portal on 28 June 2018. It allowed users of Canada's open data portal to access information from the province of Alberta alongside information from the government of Canada.[Note143: See “Open Government Portal,” Government of Canada, https://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset?portal_type=dataset&jurisdiction=provincial.] The government completed this milestone.

The government had completed Milestone 16.4 by the midterm assessment.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Major

Generally speaking, the progress made under this commitment constitutes a significant step toward improving the accessibility and usability of open data across the country. Federal leadership, particularly through the Canada Open Government Working Group, is particularly important in this area. Open North, which participated in some of the Open Government Working Group meetings, found the group to be useful for connecting to leads of different jurisdictions. However, Open North noted that these opportunities should be extended to more civil society organisations. Open North also noted that, while the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has done a good job of working with provinces, there is room for stronger engagement with municipalities.

It is also worth noting that the output of the Canada Open Government Working Group appears to have thus far focused on prioritisation, rather than the more important task of standardisation. However, these collaborations should help to set the stage for valuable work going forward. Similarly, although the federated open data portal has, thus far, integrated information only from a single province, the development of this technical architecture should allow the system to be further scaled in future.

Carried Forward?

Canada's fourth action plan contains a few milestones aimed at harmonising open data across the country. One commitment explores the adoption of common contracting data standards across Canada (2.4). Another involves coordination with provincial and territorial governments on improving beneficial ownership information (3.3). Yet another extends the federated open data portal to at least two additional provinces and municipalities (10.4).


Commitments

Open Government Partnership