Saturday, October 23, 2010

Liberals: Open data comes to Ottawa?

From: Randy Meyer

Hey Brent, I found the link to the Liberal’s prototype portal. The above is what I got when I asked about income trusts.

Open data comes to Ottawa

David Eaves
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010 9:28AM EDT
Last updated Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010 9:33AM EDT

On Thursday afternoon, the Liberals will announce that, if elected, they will adopt a government-wide directive in which “the default position for all departments and agencies will be for the release of information to the public, both proactively and responsively, after privacy and other legal requirements are met.”

There is much that both ordinary citizens and advocates of greater government transparency will like in the proposal. Not only have the Liberals mirrored the most aggressive parts of Mr. Obama's transparency initiatives, they are also promising some specific and aggressive policies of their. In addition to promising to launch a data portal – – to share government data, the Liberals propose the creation of two other sites:, where citizens can gain access to past information requests and see response times and, where information on all government grants, contributions and contracts can be searched.

The announcement brings to the Canadian political debate an exciting issue that first gained broad appeal in early 2009 when Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, called on governments to share their data . By May of that year the United States launched and in September, 2009, the British government launched , both of which garnered significant domestic attention. In addition, dozens of cities around the world – including Vancouver, Edmonton and, most recently, Ottawa – have launched websites where they share information that local charities, non-profits, businesses and ordinary citizens might find useful.

Today, citizens in these jurisdictions enjoy improved access to government information about the economy, government spending, access to information requests, and statistical data. The benefit however, not limited to improved transparency and accountability. An independent British study estimated that open data could contribute as much as £6-billion to British economy. Canada's computer developers, journalists and entrepreneurs have been left wondering when their government will give them access to the data their tax dollars paid to collect?

The Liberals are attempting to reposition themselves at the forefront of a debate around government transparency and accountability. This is ground that has traditionally been Conservative, but with the cancellation of the long-form census, the sole-source jet fighter contract and, more recently, allegations that construction contracts were awarded to Conservative party donors, accountability is once again a contestable issue.

It will be interesting to see the Conservative response. There have been rumours the government has been exploring an open-data portal but to date there has been no announcement. This is one area where, often, there is support across the spectrum. Indeed, in Britain it was Mr. Brown's Labour government that launched and Mr. Cameron's Conservative government that pursued it more aggressively still, forcing the release of additional and higher value data to the public. Of course, in Canada, between the census debacle and the muzzling of Canadian government scientists, any talk of open data may be frowned upon within government, which would be a shame. Open data and open government shouldn't be a partisan issue.

David Eaves is a public-policy entrepreneur, open government activist and negotiation expert based in Vancouver


Dr Mike said...

These politicians make me laugh---they promise accountability & openness & then if you ask them for material they don`t want to expose , they will hit it with a "National Security" tag & it`s lights out.

We get nada , zip & zilch.

When we asked for the data behind the gov`t claim of tax leakage (the reasoning behind the trust tax) they gave us a mess-o-blacked-out pages citing "National Security".

Then they recalled these same pages under an order from the Privy Council.

Recalling blacked-out pages that no one can see is a hoot.

National Security is nothing more than a lame excuse to hide smoking guns & incompetence.

How can we trust any of them.

Dr Mike Popovich

Bruce Benson said...

Randy is right on, damn I love the dark.

Anonymous said...

All of the parties in Canada are an embarassment to free and civilized country.  When the doo-doo hits that fan south of the border, which will happen shortly, our imbeciles up here will carry on like the incompetent fools that they are and drive the country into the ground.
God help us all ! 


Anonymous said...

Must be an issue of "National Security" for the Liberals as well...

Same coin; different sides.


Anonymous said...

The difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives is that the Liberals lying abilities are only exceeded by their incompetence while the Conservatives incompetence is only exceeded by their lying abilities.