Meeting notes from the Advisory Panel on Open Government meeting held in February 2014


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Members of the Advisory Panel on Open Government met on February 4, 2014 via teleconference to discuss the upcoming open data challenge (Canadian Open Data Experience, or CODE), and the proposed approach to developing Canada’s Action Plan on Open Government 2.0.

Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE):

Ray Sharma, founder and CEO of XMG Studio, provided Advisory Panel members with an update on the Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE):

  • The Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE) is the first national Open Data hack-a-thon in Canada. It is a 48-hour competition hosted by XMG, one of the largest indie mobile gaming studios in Canada, and supported by the Government of Canada. CODE will take place from February 28th – March 2nd 2014. Additional details can be found on the CODE website.
  • CODE promotional events are drawing large crowds.
  • CODE was created to highlight the potential of open data. Awareness of datasets available on is building. The potential of CODE is further demonstrated by overwhelming registration rates and requests for virtual hubs all over the country.
  • OpenText, as the event’s Gold Sponsor, is providing the $25,000 top prize.
  • Celebrity judges will include Robert Herjavec.
  • Current registration rates indicate that this could be the largest hack-a-thon in Canadian history.

Development of Canada's Action Plan on Open Government 2.0:

Corinne Charette, Chief Information Officer for the Government of Canada, provided Advisory Panel members with an update on the planned approach to the development of Canada's Action Plan on Open Government 2.0:

  • Ms. Charette acknowledged the feedback from Canadian citizens and civil society, concerning the scope and degree of public consultation to develop Canada’s first Action Plan, which was also noted in the federal government’s Year 1 Self-Assessment Report.
  • She further outlined the Government of Canada’s intention to undertake broad, multi-channel consultation and engagement activities with citizens and civil society to support the development of Action Plan 2.0.
  • Action Plan 2.0 will continue commitments initiated in the first Action Plan, and add new commitments to support transparency, accountability, and civic engagement.
  • As a first step, Ms. Charette indicated that the Government will provide Canadians advance notice of its planned consultation activities by publishing its consultation plan online.

Comments from Advisory Panel Members:

  1. Progress to Date:
    • Work on the domain and making Canada’s programs more discoverable and information more available should be commended (McKay).
    • The Independent Review Mechanism comments suggested that development in open government areas other than open data is not as significant, and goals and objectives set were not as ambitious (Scassa).
    • At some point, it will be necessary to reach out and connect with the public to measure impacts of open government activities (i.e., job creation, fund savings) (Courtois).
  2. CODE:
    • General support expressed for CODE, and its potential to drive the use of government open data in innovative ways by Canadians.
    • Should request that individuals creating apps let the government know what they have accomplished using open data (Courtois).
    • Cautionary note regarding capacity: this [hack-a-thon] could turn negative very quickly if infrastructure isn’t there to support an overwhelming response (Jenkins).
    • Hack-a-thon would benefit from more mainstream coverage (i.e., CBC or radio) to initiate a national dialogue on open access. The public gets its news through television and radio, not through official government outlets (Howard).
  3. Public Consultation & Awareness:
    • People really appreciate that the Minister has travelled cross-country and been involved personally. That outreach performed will pay dividends (Jenkins).
    • Overall, the media needs to be more engaged and involved in the public consultation and awareness process (e.g., more Ministerial appearances on radio or television). (Howard) Suggested CBC cover a discussion with the Minister and key players in order to reach a much wider audience (Miller).
    • Recommend developing a media strategy to tell Canadians about open government and Action Plan 2.0 and get them involved.  The federal government should engage Canadian technology journalists, who are consumers of open data, to help champion the issue (Howard).
    • Consultation should tap into existing networks and industry organizations that are already reaching out to many people. Important to include the policy industry, economists, analysts, and environmental assessment officers, as these groups need better access to information in general (Miller).
    • Development of Action Plan 2.0 would benefit from a discussion on the demand for open data and discussions with those who have been pushing for access to information (Howard).
    • Consultations will require more time. There may be a valuable consultation community to be built on the back of app-a-thons/hack-a-thons (McKay).
    • Potential to use Deputies' committee on Policy Innovation and Government 2.0 and collaborative workspaces as a brainstorming resource on consultation mechanisms and processes (McKay).
  4. Early Ideas for Potential Action Plan 2.0 Commitments:
    • Plan would benefit from more information on links to the G8 open data charter and on “Open by Default”. An inventory of what’s available should be created and promoted (Lainchbury).
    • Misinterpretation of data can be an issue. Need to establish a way for those who know the data best (public servants) to communicate with those who use it. Perhaps consider organizing data by policy issue (Miller).
    • More ambitious goals specific to transparency and accountability are needed. These have been overshadowed by innovation and cool apps and doing interesting things with the data (Scassa).
    • A commitment to legislative reform/renewal of the Access to Information Act is needed (Eaves, Scassa), as well as more focus on open participation, which is still a work in progress (Scassa).
    • Caution on duplicating reporting standards that may already exist (e.g. Transparency in the Extractive Sector) (Eaves).
    • There is a need for new guidelines on the use of social media by government departments. Tweets and other forms of social media used by government could benefit from being more interactive (Eaves).
    • Look to the UK’s example of e-petitions for improving public engagement and participation (Howard).
    • Demonstrate to the public that the Government of Canada is listening to their concerns by being proactive and open with its practices with regard to surveillance data (Howard).
    • The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council support greater openness and transparency of scientific research (Open Science). Recommend communicating with SSRHC staff to highlight efforts made by the Tri-Agencies on open science (Jenkins).
    • Part of the UK’s success in executing their open government activities is due to the clear identification of civil society and public service representatives that are responsible for working together to implement strategies. Engaging civil society in this way would help de-personalize and de-politicize the process (McKay).
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