Guest bloggers Paul Wisenberg (E-Communications Advisor, Travel.gc.ca, Communications Products and Services) and Andrea Lemelin (Deputy Director, Travel Information Program) explain Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada’s Country Travel Advice and Advisories dataset.
What is Canada’s Travel Information Program?
The Travel Information Program (TIP) is a service provided to Canadians as part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Development’s (DFATD) consular mandate to provide up-to-date safety and security information through the provision of country-specific Travel Advice and Advisories. Canadians can access official information and advice on situations that may affect their safety abroad. TIP officers collect safety and security reports from media sources, such as the CBC, BBC, CNN, DFATD’s media monitoring, and from other international information sources such as the Overseas Security Advisory Council and the Control Risks Group.
Each TIP officer is responsible for monitoring events in his/her region, a portfolio of 30–50 countries. TIP officers then research, analyze, draft and publish Travel Advice and Advisories (TAA) to travel.gc.ca. Officers also consult a variety of stakeholders, including:
- Canadian missions abroad, with consular officers as a main point of contact;
- Other DFATD divisions (geographics, consular case management, security, and emergency planning officers);
- Counterparts from other foreign affairs departments with similar views; and
- Other Government of Canada departments.
Can you tell us a little bit about your dataset and how it is used?
Sure, let me introduce the Travel Advice and Advisories (TAA) Dataset.
This dataset fuels Travel.gc.ca’s Travel Advice and Advisories web page, which is DFATD’s most visited page. We recommend that all Canadians visit this page before travelling abroad so that they are aware of security risks, are well prepared, and can make informed decisions regarding travel.
As part of the TAA data, DFATD maintains travel advice for 229 destinations, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The information is specific to each country, and organized according to the following seven subject areas:
- Advisories (rated according to risk level; there are four risk levels)
- Entry/exit Requirements
- Health (This subject area now also incorporates extensive travel health information from the Public Health Agency of Canada)
- Laws & culture
- Natural disasters & climate
What Apps or Mash-ups could be developed using this dataset?
We are excited about the possibilities. After we released our dataset for Government of Canada offices that provide consular services to Canadian citizens abroad in June 2013, we quickly saw developers incorporating the data into their mobile applications.
With the release of TAA data, we hope to see even better spin-off results, given the audience interested in this information—the Canadian traveller. Currently 2.8 million Canadians are living abroad, and in 2012, Canadians made 61 million trips abroad. We foresee a wide variety of potential mash-ups and uses for this dataset by app developers, businesses, universities and other non-governmental organizations.
App ideas in this context include:
- General trip planning/preparation
- Integration into travel review and booking services
- Resources for Canadian students studying abroad
Given the data’s geographical nature, possible mashups could include:
- Transportation hubs -- air, land and water
- Canadian government offices abroad
- Health Clinic locations
What new developments and modifications do you see happening in the near future?
The TAA dataset is updated continually, as frequently as every 15 minutes. (Safety and security data can change at a moment’s notice and needs to be timely.)
The TAA dataset has recently begun incorporating extensive travel health information from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), which can be found under the “Health” subject area.
Releasing this dataset on the Open Government portal allows Canadians to access official Government of Canada travel advice and information not only through our website and social media accounts, but through creative applications conceived by developers in Canada and around the world. We encourage developers to join us in our mission to inform and ensure the safety of Canadians travelling and living abroad.
Note from the Open Government team:
If you have ideas for datasets you would like to see featured here, or for other questions that you would like to see asked in the future, please let us know by posting a comment below.