Canada’s Open Government & Open Data Movements

Posted on March 9, 2015

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Richard Pietro joins ELGL to bring his take on Canada and the Open Government movement. He describes himself as “an Open Government Fanboy who creates Civic Engagement as Art.” He doesn’t work for industry, or government; He’s just a highly engaged citizen.  You can learn more about his work at or via The Open Government Podcast.

Open Gov Turtle
State of the Confederation
By: Richard Pietro, Host of the Open Government Tour. LinkedIn & Twitter.
Bio Picture 2 - SmallAs my first post for the ELGL, I’ve been asked to give a rundown of Canada’s Open Government & Open Data movements.  And since I consider myself a Fanboy of Open Gov, I will use a classic movie, and a classic writing tool, to deliver my perspective:  The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Today, you get “The Good.”
I’ve also written a post called “Open Government is Trending” that might interest you.  It highlights many Open Gov/Data related moments that I have encountered in the last few years.
NOTE:  I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, meaning that the majority of my experience is in these jurisdictions.  However, I will do my best to cover Canada from coast-to-coast and I do apologize to my Canadian friends if I happen to miss anything.
Part 1 – The Good
Canada is a member of the Open Government Partnership and is currently implementing its second action plan.  As part of its OGP commitments, the Government of Canada has drafted an “Open by Default” directive to the bureaucracy (although, that won’t be fully implemented for some time).  The GoC has held two successful nationwide Open Data Hackathons, appropriately named the Canadian Open Data Experience, or CODE for short.
open gov partnership
There also exists an informal network of federal public servants working hard to change the internal culture of the bureaucracy.  You can find these dedicated individuals on Twitter using the #w2p hashtag.  I’ve often remarked that these public servants are climbing Mount Everest without Sherpas and that I see my job as flying in Oxygen every so often.  They (and their Provincial & Municipal counterparts) are the reason I work in Open Gov/Data.
Provincially, we have a mixed bag of early adopters and laggards.  British Columbia is leading the charge and has an extensive Open Government & Open Data initiative.  The Open Government License has also been adopted in a number of jurisdictions, including the Governments of Canada, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Surrey, Nanaimo, Guelph, Edmonton, Grand Prairie & Niagara Regions, and many others I’m sure.
One of the trends I’m seeing at the provincial level is the creation of high ranking position solely dedicated to Open Gov/Data.  For example, B.C. has David Hume as its Executive Director of Citizen Engagement;  Alberta has Mark Diner as its Executive Director and Chief Advisor of Open Government;  Ontario has Marc Rondeau as its Director of Open Government.  I’m sure other provinces have similar positions, but I haven’t had the opportunity to work with them (atleast, I don’t think I have).
The Province of Ontario has created and is leading a network called PSOD, or Public Sector Open Data.  Their goal is to ensure that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing by keeping municipalities up-to-date on provincial Open Gov/Data.
PSOD is also a kind of mentoring program for municipalities since some cities are ahead of the curve while others are just entering this Open Gov/Data conversation.  In my head, I almost see PSOD as a kind of support group for public servants.  They share best practices, mistakes they’ve made, and tools they’ve used to help bring consistency and standardization amongst Ontario municipalities.
Ontario has also developed a voting mechanism to help prioritize which data sets they should release first.  Some have suggested that this isn’t the best method, but I applaud Ontario for trying something different.  I would also be remised if I didn’t say that Newfoundland is also part of the Open Government & Open Data conversation, although I haven’t had the opportunity to really work with them.
Part 2 will feature the second half of “The Good” by showcasing the Open Gov/Data landscape at the municipal level.

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