Expand and improve open data - Commitment 3


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Lead implementing department(s)
Treasury Board Secretariat
Statistics Canada
Reporting period

Mid-term (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017)

Other actors involved: Contributing Government of Canada departments

Commitment description

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?

Considerable data can often be trapped inside government silos. Meanwhile, open data has the potential to transform how government officials make decisions and how citizens interact with their government. By providing a range of quality open data from reliable sources, Canada supports informed participation and engagement in the development and delivery of programs, services, and policies by citizens and government workers alike. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that its data is open by default. Data must be discoverable, accessible, and reusable without restriction so as to enhance transparency, enable better services to Canadians, facilitate innovation, and inform public participation.

What is the commitment?

The Government of Canada will increase the quality and visibility of federal data holdings and set measurable targets for the release of open data over the next five years.

How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?

Over the last five years, federal departments and agencies have established a good foundation of available open data. The Treasury Board Secretariat’s current Directive on Open Government requires federal departments to maximize the release of eligible government data and publish Open Government Implementation Plans outlining how they would implement the Directive’s requirements. The current work is seeking to “automate” the opening of data, and ingrain the practice throughout all processes.

The next step is about increasing the diversity, timeliness, and quality of data released, to maximize the potential impact of the reuse of the Government’s data by Canadians. As an example, Statistics Canada is working on increasing access to high-quality statistical information in open formats, including releasing all 2016 Census data a full 10 months sooner than the 2011 Census. Steps are also being taken to ensure the data is well understood by Canadians.

In addition, a key focus is being placed on streamlining and improving the process by which departments proactively disclose information on government spending and human resources online. Finally, the Government of Canada is continuing to take advantage of opportunities to share best practices and work with data experts both nationally and internationally to improve its own open data services and support the release of high quality data.

Relevance to OGP values

This commitment relates to the OGP value of transparency.

Status update

Deliverables in Action Plan

  1. Develop and publish departmental inventories of federal data, as required by the Directive on Open Government, to support collaboration with the public on setting priorities for the release of open data.
  2. Set a baseline for the total volume of open data to be released over time and establish departmental targets for the publication of releasable data over the next five years:
    • Publish departmental targets and progress on departments’ release of open data.
  3. Develop and refine guidance to help federal departments and agencies set priorities for the release of high-value open data and understand the specific circumstances under which data cannot be released for privacy, security, and/or confidentiality reasons:
    • Establish data quality standards for open data;
    • Provide guidance on engaging with key communities in Canada (e.g., First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, etc.) to better understand their needs when setting priorities for the release of open data;
    • Develop metadata standards to enhance data interoperability and discoverability; and
    • Develop guidance on the anonymization of datasets.
  4. Provide access to high-quality, open statistical data and information from Statistics Canada, free of charge, in machine-readable formats under an open license and accessible via open.canada.ca:
    • Release the results of the 2016 Census (Short Form and Long Form) in 2017 based on a published release schedule; and
    • Host on-line "Chat with an Expert" and in-person "Talking Stats" sessions to enable Canadians to interact with Statistics Canada analysts and better understand the published data.
  5. Improve Canadians’ access to data and information proactively disclosed by departments and agencies through a single, common online search tool:
    • Enhance self-service tools for departments to publish proactive disclosure information to strengthen the quality of data being released.
  6. Adopt the International Open Data Charter and initiate implementation of the Charter requirements:
    • Encourage civil society and private sector organizations to open up their own data where this would be of public benefit; and
    • Measure progress and report on Canada’s implementation of Charter principles.

Expected result

Canadians will have access to diverse, high quality government data that is discoverable, accessible, and reusable. They will also be able to interact directly with the Chief Statistician and with Statistics Canada analysts to better understand the data and the importance of official statistics.

Description of results

  1. Departmental open data inventories were published for the first time in March 2017. With the creation of these inventories, over 1,500 new datasets have been identified as eligible for release. In addition to having the ability to search through the inventories on open.canada.ca, citizens also have the option to communicate with the Government by voting on datasets most useful to them. This in turn will help departments and agencies to fast track the more popular datasets for release based on voting. See related blog.
    • As of June 30, 2017: 89% of large departments (33 of 37), 61% of small departments (14 of 23), 4% micro organizations (1 of 24) have submitted their open data inventories.

      Large organizations (>500 employees) represent 94% of the total public service;
      Small organizations (150-500 employees) represent 4% of the total public service; and
      Micro organizations (<150 employees) represent 1% of the total public service.

      As a result of this exercise, in addition to new datasets being identified, new governance processes were established in several departments, awareness of open government increased, and it created an opportunity for citizens to influence Government priorities by voting for datasets.

  2. Since June 2016, over 4,000 new non-spatial datasets and 27,000 new geospatial datasets have been published on open.canada.ca.
  3. Open.canada.ca was re-launched in October 2016 to improve the search and discovery of open data records by developing an integrated search with more search filters and enriched metadata. This has improved Canadians’ access to data and information proactively disclosed by departments and agencies.

    Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has established an interdepartmental Open Government Resource Development Working Group as a collaborative forum with departments and agencies. One of its first deliverables is a guidance document to provide comprehensive and authoritative direction on requirements for publishing open government resources. It will include formal guidance on issues such as data quality, accessibility, official languages, privacy and security, prioritization, anonymization, and metadata standards.

    Preliminary work has begun on engaging Indigenous Peoples on data including hosting a workshop with Indigenous thought leaders entitled, “Indigenous Perspectives on Open Data” and facilitating Indigenous participation at the Canadian Open Data Summit in Edmonton in June 2017.

  4. The dissemination of the 2016 census results is proceeding according to the pre-published calendar. To date, the following results have been published: Population and dwelling counts (February 8, 2017); Age and sex, Type of dwelling (May 3, 2017).

    Five “Chat with and Expert” sessions and four “Talking Stats” sessions took place between July 2016 and June 2017. Another event, part of a Speaker Series for Canada 150, took place on April 25, 2017.

  5. Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has worked with policy leads to create standardized proactive disclosure templates for the following reporting types: contracts over 10K, grants and contributions, travel and hospitality, acts of founded wrongdoing, position reclassification as well as annual contract and travel reporting.

    Departments have the ability to publish disclosures live to open.canada.ca within one day of submitting completed templates.

    A proactive disclosure page on GCpedia has been created for users. It includes documentation such as training guides, training video, data element profiles and contact information.

  6. During the Open Government Partnership’s Global Summit in December 2016 (Paris) Minister Brison announced that Canada will adopt the International Open Data Charter. The Government of Canada continues to serve as a Lead Steward of the Open Data Charter, and has supported the development of key resources to support more effective implementation of Charter principles (see Commitment 21).

Next steps to June 2018

  1. Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat will continue to work with:
    • departments and agencies to develop release schedules to publish datasets captured in their inventory; and
    • small and micro sized departments, which generally have fewer dedicated open government resources, to provide assistance with inventories and data release.

    It will also explore trends gleaned from the data inventory exercise to inform a strategy for data management across the Government of Canada.

  2. The Open Government team at Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat will continue to work with departments to release new datasets and develop publication schedules based on datasets captured in their open data inventories, a deliverable in the Directive on Open Government.
  3. Consultations will be held over the summer of 2017 on the guidance document referenced above, that will provide comprehensive and authoritative direction on requirements for departments when publishing open government resources.  The document will be finalized and published on open.canada.ca later in 2017.

    Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat will work to deepen engagement and collaboration with Indigenous thought leaders on open data. It will also identify engagement tools and practices that support and reflect a renewed relationship with Indigenous Peoples based on rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.

  4. Statistics Canada will continue to disseminate the 2016 census results according to the release schedule: Families, households and marital status, Language (August 2, 2017); Income (September 13, 2017); Immigration and ethnocultural diversity, Housing, Aboriginal peoples (October 25, 2017); Education, Labour, Journey to work, Language of work, Mobility and migration (November 29, 2017).

    Seven “Chat with an Expert” sessions are currently planned between July 2017 and December 2017 (6 for the 2016 Census releases and 1 on Health):

    • 2016 Census: Families/Households/Marital status/Language (Aug. 2, 2017)
    • 2016 Census: Income (Sept. 15, 2017)
    • Health (Oct. 23, 2017)
    • 2016 Census: Immigration/Ethnocultural diversity (Oct. 27, 2017)
    • 2016 Census: Housing/Aboriginal Peoples (Oct. 30, 2017)
    • 2016 Census: Education/Labour (Dec. 1, 2017)
    • 2016 Census: Journey to work/Language of work/Mobility/Migration (Dec. 4, 2017)

    Five “Talking Stats” events are planned between September 2017 and April 2018:

    • Diversity and inclusion, Montreal, Quebec (Sept. 25, 2017)
    • Impact of oil prices on Canadian economy, Calgary, Alberta (Oct. 19, 2017)
    • Agriculture, Winnipeg, Manitoba (Nov. 20, 2017)
    • Education and Immigration, Halifax, Nova Scotia (Jan. 25, 2018)
    • Housing, Toronto, Ontario (TBD – April 2018)

    Three events part of the Speaker Series for Canada 150 are planned between September and November 2017:

    • Aboriginal Peoples (September 21, 2017)
    • Environment (October 31, 2017)
    • Youth (November 16, 2017)
  5. Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat will continue to provide support to departments though training and documentation available on GCpedia and in person. Additionally, as departments migrate their proactive disclosure information to open.canada.ca, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat will provide support for the migration, as well as ongoing support to departments publishing their disclosures.

    Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat is in discussions with all proactive disclosure policy leads to provide additional guidance to departments. Key areas of focus include migration of legacy content, retention and disposition, and mandatory publishing deadlines. Once appropriate decisions have been made, updates will be communicated to departments.

  6. Canada will work to implement the principles of the Open Data Charter, and to report publicly on its progress in doing so. Canada will continue to work with government, civil society, and private sector stakeholders across Canada and around the world to support the release of high-quality, high-value open data.

Completion level

  1. Completed
  2. Substantial
  3. Substantial
  4. Substantial
  5. Substantial
  6. Limited

Additional information

Another example of how Statistics Canada is making its data holdings more relevant and understandable to Canadians is the publication of three new products on the occasion of Canada 150:

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