Open Canada – Hello Globe and Mail?

Richard Poynder has a wonderful (and detailed) post on his blog Open and Shut about the state of open data in the UK. Much of it covers arguments about why open data matters economically and democratically (the case I’ve been making as well). It is worthwhile reading for policy makers and engaged citizens.

There is however a much more important lesson buried in the article. It is in regard to the role of the Guardian newspaper.

As many of you know I’ve been advocating for Open Data at all levels of government, and in particular, at the federal level. This is why I and others created datadotgc.ca: If the government won’t create an open data portal, we’ll create one for them. The goal of course, was to show them that it already does open data, and that it could do a lot, lot more (there is a v2 of the site in the works that will offer some more, much cooler functionality coming soon).

What is fascinating about Poynder’s article is the important role the Guardian has played in bringing open data to the UK. Consider this small excerpt from his post.

For The Guardian the release of COINS marks a high point in a crusade it began in March 2006, when it published an article called “Give us back our crown jewels” and launched the Free Our Data campaign. Much has happened since. “What would have been unbelievable a few years ago is now commonplace,” The Guardian boasted when reporting on the release of COINS.

Why did The Guardian start the Free Our Data campaign? Because it wanted to draw attention to the fact that governments and government agencies have been using taxpayers’ money to create vast databases containing highly valuable information, and yet have made very little of this information publicly available.

The lesson here is that a national newspaper in the UK played a key role in pressuring a system of government virtually identical to our own (now also governed by a minority, conservative lead government) to release one of the most important data in its possession – the Combined Online Information System (COINS). This on top of postal codes and what we would find in Stats Canada’s databases.

All this leads me to ask one simple question. Where is the Globe and Mail? I’m not sure its editors have written a single piece calling for open data (am I wrong here?). Indeed, I’m not even sure the issue is on their radar. It certainly has done nothing close to launching a “national campaign.” They could do the Canadian economy, democracy and journalism and world of good. Open data can be championed by individual advocates such as myself but having a large media player repeatedly raising the issue, time and time again brings out the type of pressure few individuals can muster.

All this to say, if the Globe ever gets interested, I’m here. Happy to help.

2 thoughts on “Open Canada – Hello Globe and Mail?

  1. Aaron McGowan

    I believe that The Guardian has done a very good job at bringing awareness and building the pressure required to get the Government to open data in the UK. Kudos to The Guardian!I am also very curious if open data is even on the radar for The Globe and Mail. Will they be the next big shakers and movers for open data here in Canada? Or will we (citizens) have to continue to build support and the pressure through individual activism and grass root movements.Are there any replies and or official answers from The Globe and Mail regarding your questions? If there any, I am most definitely interested in reading them if they are shared :)I also look forward to the release data(dot)gc.ca version 2.0. Great initiative and I hope it continues to build interest and support by everyone here in Canada.

    Reply
  2. Aaron McGowan

    I believe that The Guardian has done a very good job at bringing awareness and building the pressure required to get the Government to open data in the UK. Kudos to The Guardian!I am also very curious if open data is even on the radar for The Globe and Mail. Will they be the next big shakers and movers for open data here in Canada? Or will we (citizens) have to continue to build support and the pressure through individual activism and grass root movements.Are there any replies and or official answers from The Globe and Mail regarding your questions? If there any, I am most definitely interested in reading them if they are shared :)I also look forward to the release data(dot)gc.ca version 2.0. Great initiative and I hope it continues to build interest and support by everyone here in Canada.

    Reply

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