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

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Members of the Advisory Panel on Open Government met on June 3, 2014 via teleconference to review and discuss potential commitments for Canada’s Action Plan on Open Government 2.0.

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

Corinne Charette, Chief Information Officer for the Government of Canada, provided a brief overview of potential Action Plan 2.0 commitments identified to date through public consultations and ongoing discussions with key stakeholders.

Comments from Advisory Panel Members:

Members took part in a roundtable discussion, offering their comments and suggestions with regard to the list of potential Action Plan 2.0 commitments.

  1. General comments
    • General support expressed for the list of potential commitments, noting that potential commitments are interesting and ambitious, the overall balance between the three Open Government streams (Open Data, Open Information, and Open Dialogue) is good, and the list generally reflects a more mature and developed plan compared to the previous version.
  2. Consultations
    • In response to a question from members, Corinne noted that consultations are underway with a number of multijurisdictional working groups, joint councils, etc. These discussions have also led to the identification of Open Data Canada as an Action Plan commitment.  There will continue to be significant interaction between various levels of government and civil society through the Open Data Institute. The Consultation Plan commits to providing a report summarizing comments received and demonstrating how comments have been addressed in the Action Plan.
    • Concerning Open Dialogue commitments, the development of principles concerning the government's commitment to supporting different types of dialogue with Canadians could be a key starting point (Mendel).
  3. Foundational Commitments
    • Glad to see “Open by Default” emerging at the international level, and being incorporated as part of specific policy instruments for the Government of Canada (Lainchbury).
    • Should include criteria for non-disclosure of information (Miller).
    • The Government of Canada should consider including activities about its own use of open information and data in its Action Plan; there is nice alignment between Government of Canada goals for Open Government and shared services, and the potential linkages between the two should be explored further (Eaves).
    • Need to establish an inventory of datasets, and be more transparent regarding the process to identify and publish high value datasets (Lainchbury).
  4. Open Data Canada
    • The provision of federal leadership to other levels of government would be ideal (Miller).
    • The President noted the Government of Canada has started building some great relationships and completed key work (e.g., establishment of common licence), although there is still work to be done.
    • One of the challenges faced by some municipal governments is that they have built business models around the selling of their data. Need to bridge how organizations address funding and sustainability issues as they move from selling data to making it open (Miller).
  5. Open Data Institute
    • Open Data Institute should explore the potential of funding projects (Lainchbury).
    • Some Open Government stakeholders were surprised that it was mentioned in the budget, and don’t fully understand what its structure or mandate will be. There is interest in this but more information should be made available about its role (Scassa).
    • The Open Data Institute was created very quickly and is currently supported by a limited partnership – expanding this partnership will be important if the Institute is to be successful in its goals (Jenkins).
    • The President noted advisory Panel members can play a big role in shaping the Institute. Institute can present significant opportunities for governments and stakeholders to work together, and can provide a neutral ground and a convening power
  6. Access to Information
    • Inclusion of the review and amendment of the Access to Information (ATI) Act would be a positive step. Perhaps reforming the current ATI Act to be an Open Government or Open Information Act could provide a chance to rebrand the legislation (Scassa).
    • Canadians are looking for ATI reform, a concern that was also raised through the Open Government Partnership’s independent review process. While the Government may not be able to commit to legislative reform at this time, potential policy changes could be considered, such as publishing metadata on access requests, committing to reducing delays, proactively making material released in response to an access request available on-line, and addressing requests submitted electronically (Mendel).
    • The President noted on-line request and pay is continuing to be rolled out; posted summaries are already available on-line and previously disclosed access requests are also searchable on-line.
    • An issue that is getting a lot of media attention is the lack of transparency around the disclosure of personal information by TELCOs to police (law and security authorities). This is a significant issue for Canadians and could be addressed through Action Plan 2.0 (Scassa).
  7. Mandatory Reporting on Extractives
    • One aspect (payments to governments) is being addressed by potential commitment. To more fully enhance transparency for this industry we should also look at disclosing additional information on beneficial ownership, hazardous sites, etc. (Lainchbury).
    • Concern is that while each company would be required to disclose payments made to governments, there would be no central repository for this information. Recommend establishing a central repository, supported by strong guidelines, that would allow Canadians to compare data across companies (Eaves).
  8. Contracting Transparency
    • Providing copies of contracts would maximize transparency in this area (Mendel).
    • Panel members were encouraged to continue to provide comments and feedback about the Action Plan, and Corinne Charette committed to providing the Panel members with the following:
      • A recap of discussion at this meeting;
      • The summary of the February 4th meeting; and
      • Initial reports on public consultations to date.