The Impetus of Collaboration

May 8, 2015


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Jean-Noé Landry is Open North's Director of Strategic Initiatives. He is a democracy development expert with 13 years of international and local experience.

The transformation of government and citizen engagement in the 21st century includes open data. The promises of improved public services, increased public integrity, and more effective management of public resources are materializing.

Open data has taken hold. In Canada, the number of municipal and provincial governments with open data policies and open data portals has increased dramatically –now more than 50. The Government of Canada released the second iteration of Canada’s Action Plan on Open Government last year following a multi-phased consultation process. Canadians might be surprised to learn that the scope and ambition of the plan has positioned Canada as an international leader among fellow Open Government Partnership (OGP) members and G8 countries. Indeed, a recent study by the Center for Data Innovation ranked Canada in second place (tied with the United States, after the UK) among G8 countries for its commitment to open data to promote innovation and government transparency.

Across the country, open data is routinely discussed at conferences on innovation, technology, and open government. Issues of impact, commercialization, and standards are top of mind for the Canadian open data community. Yet, we need to build on the efforts to date, share our best practices, and grow the open data community strategically and collaboratively. In many respects, the necessity to coordinate open data policies, licences, and strategies is accentuated by Canada’s geographic disposition and jurisdictional structure.

With these challenges in mind, the Canadian Open Data Summit in Ottawa, on May 25, is a timely gathering in advance of the landmark International Open Data Conference on May 28-29.

Created in British Columbia three years ago by the Open Data Society of BC, the Summit has grown from a regional to a national touch-point on the calendars of open data leaders from government, media, businesses, non-profits, and academia. Addressing the momentum of open data, as well as the outstanding questions about its future, this year's theme is building sustainable open data communities.

The Summit is designed to create a space to acknowledge and share different approaches to citizen engagement strategies and collaboration between governments, including:

  • The Ontario provincial government’s aim to be a platform for organized collective action by leading the creation of multi-jurisdictional initiatives and partnerships, such as the Ontario’s Public Sector Open Data Working Group.
  • The City of Montreal’s newly launched Smart City Office, which squarely situates the accessibility, analysis, and valuation of open data at the top of its strategic orientation and seeks to tap into the local social economy and start-up community to improve the quality of life of its residents.
  • The Government of Canada’s commitment to “work with provinces, territories, and municipalities to break down barriers to integrated, pan-Canadian open data services through the establishment of common principles, standards, and licensing across all levels of government,” through the Action Plan
  • The Government of British Columbia’s experimentation with technological innovation and collaboration initiatives like the BC Developer’s Exchange and GitHub to stimulate engagement within the tech community.

Too few Canadians and stakeholders know about their government’s commitment to open data, and this lack of awareness and engagement reflects a greater challenge for the national open data community. Hard fought advocacy gains must now lead to strengthening diverse and dynamic open data ecosystems. Infrastructure and policies must create the conditions for reaping the benefits of open data. Public data managers and producers experimenting with new engagement strategies require active user communities to drive demand and innovation. The critical reflection process at the Canadian Open Data Summit will take stock of these issues.

Visit the Canadian Open Data Summit site to see the list of 30+ international and Canadian experts speaking at the Summit on May 25 in Ottawa and to purchase your ticket.

Shaw Centre Ottawa
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Jean-Noé Landry, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Outreach, Open North


The opinions expressed in this blog post are not necessarily those of the Government of Canada.

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