Open data provides citizens with huge benefits on a daily basis. Among other things, it gets you your weather forecast, improves transportation services and allows you to analyze budgetary datasets to understand government expenditures. Federal, provincial and territorial governments (and municipalities) across Canada are custodians of a large amount of data.
Currently, each government defines their own criteria for the datasets they will prioritize for release. This means that datasets are appearing like disparate pieces of a puzzle right now, unrelated to each other and making it difficult for Canadians to compare data across jurisdictions. Data may also be recorded and reported differently from one government administration to the other, which can make it further challenging to integrate these datasets. To address this, we decided to embark on an intergovernmental collaborative approach.
The Canada Open Government Working Group
The Canada Open Government Working Group (COGWG) was created to provide a forum for collaboration on open government initiatives across federal, provincial and territorial governments. One of the six key priorities of the Working Group is to identify high value datasets that could then be released across jurisdictions on a priority basis. With a common approach to defining important datasets, there is a higher chance that similar datasets can be released and then connected to provide even greater value. This important work has been led by the governments of Quebec and Nova Scotia in collaboration with the members of COGWG. It is also part of Commitment #16 in Canada’s third biennial plan to the Open Government Partnership: “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”.
Criteria for identifying high value datasets
To help identify datasets of high priority, the Canada Open Government Working Group first conducted a comparative analysis of current practices in several Canadian jurisdictions followed by analysis of international best practices. Subsequently, the Working Group established five criteria for identifying high value datasets. These criteria include data that:
- Helps identify social, environmental and economic conditions;
- Helps promote better outcomes for public services;
- Encourages innovation and sustainable economic growth;
- Increases government transparency, accountability and the flow of information; and
- Is in high demand by the community.
Full details on these criteria can be found on the open information portal.
Initial list of high value datasets
Based on the above criteria, the Working Group has identified the following initial 17 high value datasets for consideration across federal, provincial and territorial governments. While these datasets are not mandatory for governments to release, this list should be considered in the prioritization of datasets for release. In order to facilitate the reuse of these datasets, the working group will also collaborate to standardize their dissemination.
- Call for tender: Datasets on tenders and contracts awards
- Municipal registry: Data on municipal registry including name, address, postal code and website of municipalities
- Water quality: Data related to quality of drinking water
- Administrative boundary: Datasets on administrative boundaries
- Data on higher education institutions: Datasets on higher education enrolments and field of study.
- Hospital List: Datasets on hospital list and health center.
- Election result: Datasets on results of major elections
- Touristic attractions: Datasets on touristic attractions
- Crime statistics: Datasets on crime statistics
- Vegetation map: Vegetation map with associated features
- Hydrographic map: Spatial datasets on lakes, rivers and streams
- Topographic map: Topographic map including natural and artificial features.
- Contours: Contours based on heights of land
- Crown land: Spatial datasets of all Crown land within provinces
- Government pay scales: Pay scales for government employees
- Births and deaths: Number of births and deaths, and natural increase
- Top baby names: Listing of top baby names by year and gender
How you can help
We need your help to refine this initial list of high value datasets. As Canadian governments release new datasets and try to connect citizens to open data, the goal behind prioritization is to both standardize and better target limited resources. So, did we get it right? Share your views below or by writing to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senior Project Advisor, Open Government, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Government of Canada
As part of the Open Government team at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Moses leads the intergovernmental open government work and promotes federal-provincial-territorial multilateral efforts to harmonize the delivery of open government data across Canada. Prior to joining the federal public service a decade ago, he worked in the Academia, where his scientific research spanned earth observations, atmospheric aerosols and modelling of radiative fluxes. His affection for open data and scientific innovation are reflected in his passion for open government and open science. Find him on Twitter at @mosesiziomon.