Engaging parliamentary data users to better respond to their needs


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Submitted By
Open North
Votes: 101

The data published by the Parliament of Canada -- like votes and speeches,
and much more -- is generally of high quality and consistency. Yet,
parliament could make more data accessible in open data format if it's information management approach engaged parliamentary data users more systematically.

High volume data users like Parliament.ca note that too often information that's technically available sometimes lacks documentation, support of any kind, or the licensing is not open/permissive. In some cases, like audio/video, the data is available internally but not available to the public, or in open data format. The demand for this data may not be clearly communicated nor acknowledged.

Committee schedules and other committee data, on the other hand, are not published as data. For a few years post-2011, whenever a section of parl.gc.ca was redesigned, XML data was included. Unfortunately, when the committees website was (nicely!) redone a few months ago, no data was included. It would be useful to include open data in all new development work.

There are other potentially interesting legislative data that isn't available, like structured data for legislation, written questions/answers and other tabled documents.

The work of the Hansard office is also a noteworthy example. While it does truly heroic indexing work, carefully categorizing each speech within a structured ontology, this isn't included in their public document XML, which could be extremely useful for research. A lot of great technical work is done, but in isolation from the needs of data users.

For parliamentary data users, and Canadians at large, having someone in the House of Commons with "open data" in their job description, who could engage with users, would be great step towards increasing open communication. This commitment idea, therefore, calls for an engagement process with parliamentary data users and stakeholders. This National Action Plan is an opportunity to develop a common approach and vision for a dynamic and innovative parliamentary data ecosystem in Canada.

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Submitted by Michael Mulley… on May 15, 2016 - 10:21 PM

As the creator of openparliament.ca, a resource built on open Parliamentary data that's used by thousands of Canadians every day, I wholeheartedly support incorporating Parliamentary data and openness into the Action Plan, and these ideas are an excellent starting point.

Submitted by Will Horter, D… on May 15, 2016 - 8:03 PM

Dogwood Iniative believes that open, transparent government, particularly parliament, will benefit all. Open North's proposal is a no brainer. All publicly funded data should be published and freely available online by default unless a case can be made that access should be restricted. Having an open data facilitator within parliament will help install trust in government by making it more accessible and transparent.

Submitted by Kyle Geske, Op… on May 14, 2016 - 7:39 PM

Open Democracy Manitoba builds online tools to help citizens better understand and engage with local government and the democratic process. Our projects are strengthened by the existence of well-structured and well-documented open data. We support Open North's proposal for the House of Commons to improve the usability of parliamentary open data in collaboration with the users of its data. http://opendemocracymanitoba.ca

Submitted by Kelly Carmicha… on May 14, 2016 - 11:48 AM

The exchange of information can only strengthen the relationship Government has with citizens. Fair Vote Canada uses open data and we really appreciate have facts in hand. Open, transparent Government will benefit all.

Submitted by Kevin Bowman on May 14, 2016 - 1:00 AM

All publicly funded data should be published and freely available online by default unless a case can be made that access should be restricted. The burden for making said case should be on those collecting, storing and potentially publishing the data and should demonstrate some REAL (not perceived) potential for ACTUAL harm (as opposed to tarnished reputations, etc.). The case should be presented to a body consisting of data producers, users and others who may be affected by restriction of access. Said body would rule if the restriction of access is justified.

Submitted by Meghan Hellstern on May 13, 2016 - 4:50 PM

Through my work with groups like Civic Tech Toronto (http://civictech.ca) I have seen first-hand the transformational power that open data holds in helping people work together to better understand and improve civic life. I have also seen the challenges that citizens and other groups have in working with data that is sometimes poorly structured, difficult to access, etc. Having someone within Parliament who could act as a conduit between open data users and providers would be a huge leap forward in enabling greater collaboration in the interest of the public good.

Submitted by Laura Anthony on May 11, 2016 - 9:26 PM

It would be great to have more open and accessible data on Canada's Parliament.

Submitted by Maeva on May 11, 2016 - 8:21 PM

Tout à fait d'accord ! L'accès aux données est la base d'une démocratie saine

Submitted by Stéphane Gagno… on May 11, 2016 - 1:19 PM

The academic community is highly interested, for research purposes, to reuse parliamentary open data. We definitely need an open ontology (preferably in a portable standard such as OWL2), representing not only the topics discussed, but also very possible relationships involved (e.g., laws, regulations, government entities, key positions and their title holders, external entities, interest groups, etc.). Reusing Semantic Web technology, we would then be best positioned to automatically annotate all contents, but furthermore enable complex queries that would narrow down automatically, and allow automated recommendation, of contents based on predefined custom requirements.

Submitted by Lisa Cerasuolo on May 10, 2016 - 6:48 PM

The example of the Hansard papers is quite perfect to demonstrate the lack of usability certain data has. Having used them numerous times for both my studies and work, it is tedious beyond belief having to go through every single PDF to find valuable information. We should be able to make this easier.

Submitted by Raphael Belizaire on May 10, 2016 - 5:53 PM

Open data, accesible data is an essential component to having more engaged citizens. People should be able to take part in the advancement of this country and have a better chance to undertand the issues. Entrepreneurs and social groups can use this data to improve communities relationship with their government. Open data is an economic opportunity, it is also a powerful social tool that can empower citizens to take ownership of their country.