Open Data Across Canada – A Snapshot

February 1, 2016


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“Open data is data that can be freely used, shared and built-on by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose.” – Open Knowledge Foundation

The governments of Alberta, British Columbia and Canada conducted a survey on open data of all Canadian provinces and territories in 2015. Open data programs have become increasingly popular across the country, and we wanted to have a better picture of who is active in Canada, what open data programs look like, and what impact they’re having.

Check out this infographic for a snapshot of the results.

Who has open data?

As recently as five years ago, no one in Canada had an open data portal. Today:

  • Half of Canadian federal, provincial, and territorial jurisdictions have open data portals and programs (7 out of 14 – including Canada, BC, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Yukon).
  • Canada’s open data portals are small but mighty: They have 10 or fewer staff, budgets of $500,000 or less, and have been running for 5 years or less, but almost 250,000 datasets are available for download.
  • Nova Scotia is developing its portal over the coming year.
  • All six remaining jurisdictions are studying whether to create open data portals.

What are open data principles?

All of the active jurisdictions also agreed that open data portals should be built according to three key principles:

  • Government data should be easy to reuse and available in open formats.
  • Government data should be easily discoverable, and Canadians should be able to find all open data via any portal.
  • Governments should engage with citizens, especially to prioritize data for release.

Six of the active jurisdictions use an open licence, which allows people to freely reuse any of the information.

Who’s using open data?

The survey found that there’s a strong market for open data. In all seven active jurisdictions, the number one type of feedback is a request for more data.

Open data is being requested by individuals, businesses, and governments equally. This shows that open data is useful for a broad range of groups.

What data are people looking for?

The key feature of any open data portal is the data itself.

A dataset is a collection of interrelated data records organized in a specific way in a computer-readable medium.

The most downloaded dataset types fall into three general categories:

Better services

  • Baby names
  • Education
  • Public transit
  • Scientific research data
  • Health

Better transparency

  • Budget/financial
  • Procurement/contracts
  • Elected official expenditures
  • Crime and Justice
  • Civil service expenditures

Innovative business

  • Geographical/Geospatial
  • Natural Resources
  • Environment Employment/labour
  • Demographics
  • Socioeconomics statistics

How are people using the data?

Data is being used to create apps and services to solve problems, and to save time and money. Real-time transit info, career path tools, and healthy food locators are just some of the types of products that have resulted from reusing open data. Similar services developed through our Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE) appathon include:

  • High School Down, Where Next?  helps young Canadians make decisions about their career path based on geography, potential income, tuition cost and other factors.
  • Farm Canada lets farmers look up commodity prices, buy and sell equipment, and receive market updates.

Here are a few other examples of apps being developed in Canada:

  • RerouteMe helps commuters avoid construction, accidents and traffic congestion, using traffic and mapping data.
  • MapYourProperty helps the land development and real estate industry use land planning data and determine property potential.

What’s next for open data in Canada?

Survey respondents also said they want to create common standards, explore how to make it easier for people to find data from multiple government sources, and study how best to implement open data programs. We’ll work through Open Data Canada, our federal-provincial-territorial-municipal forum, to make progress on these issues.

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