Lots of Open Data Action in Canada

A lot of movement on the open data (and not so open data) front in Canada.

Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Open Data Portal Launched

IATI-imagesSome readers may remember that last week I wrote a post about the imminent launch of CIDA’s open data portal. The site is now live and has a healthy amount of data on it. It is a solid start to what I hope will become a robust site. I’m a big believer – and supporter of the excellent advocacy efforts of the good people at Engineers Without Borders – that the open data portal would be greatly enhanced if CIDA started publishing its data in compliance with the emerging international standard of the International Aid Transparency Initiative as these 20 leading countries and organizations have.

If anyone creates anything using this data, I’d love to see it. One simple start might be to try using the Open Knowledge Foundation’s open source Where Does my Money Go code, to visualize some of the spending data. I’d be happy to chat with anyone interested in doing this, you can also check out the email group to find some people experienced in playing with the code base.

Improved License on the CIDA open data portal and data.gc.ca

One thing I’ve noticed with the launch of the CIDA open data portal was how the license was remarkably better than the license at data.gc.ca – which struck me as odd, since I know the feds like to be consistent about these types of things. Turns out that the data.gc.ca license has been updated as well and the two are identical. This is good news as some of the issues that were broken with the previous license have been fixed. But not all. The best license out there remains the license at data.gov (that’s a trick question, because data.gov has no license, it is all public domain! Tricky eh…? Nice!) but if you are going to have a license, the UK Open Government License used by at data.gov.uk is more elegant, freer and satisfies a number of the concerns I cite above and have heard people raise.

So this new data.gc.ca license is a step in the right direction, but still behind the open gov leaders (teaching lawyers new tricks sadly takes a long time, especially in government).

Great site, but not so open data: WellBeing Toronto

Interestingly, the City of Toronto has launched a fabulous new website called Well Being Toronto. It is definitely worth checking out. The main problem of course is that while it is interesting to look at, the underlying data is, sadly, not open. You can’t play with the data, such as mash it up with your own (or another jurisdiction’s) data. This is disappointing as I believe a number of non-profits in Toronto would likely find the underlying data quite helpful/important. I have, however, been told that the underlying data will be made open. It is something I hope to check in on again in a few months as I fear that it may never get prioritized, so it may be up to Torontonians to whold the Mayor and council’s feet to the fire to ensure it gets done.

Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) launches (non-open) data website

It seems the PBO is also getting in on the data action with the launch of a beta site that allows you to “see” budgets from the last few years. I know that the Parliamentary Budget Office has been starved of resources, so they deserve to be congratulated for taking this first, important step. Also interesting is that the data has no license on the website, which could make it the most liberally licensed open data portal in the country. The site does have big downsides. First, the data can only be “looked” at, there is no obvious (simple) way to download it and start playing with it. More oddly still the PBO requires that users register with their email address to view the data. This seems beyond odd and actually, down right creepy, to me. First, parliament’s budget should be free and open and one should not need to hand over an email address to access it. Second, the email addresses collected appear to serve no purpose (unless the PBO intends to start spamming us), other than to tempt bad people to hack their site so they can steal a list of email addresses.

7 thoughts on “Lots of Open Data Action in Canada

  1. SPARMonitor

    Re: Wellbeing Toronto
    >”interesting to look at, the underlying data is, sadly, not open.”

    This is incorrect. All the indicator data is open and can be downloaded to Excel or CSV machine-readable formats. Please review the tutorial guide. 

    1. David Eaves

      Yes, I did not notice that. A few thoughts:

      1. First off, want to say the website is beautiful. As a way of visualizing data in Toronto it is beautifully executed. Huge congratulations all round. I can imagine any critique feels like it speaks about the whole project, this is definitely not the case. I’ve some thoughts about how the data is shared but the site is wonderful!

      2. Open data thought #1: When I first wanted to get the data underlying the site I clicked on the open data link at the top of the Well Being Toronto website, which took me to toronto.ca/open. But after looking around I couldn’t find ant of the data there. I think this is what you can expect many users will do – there is a big flashing light saying “open data” and I think it sets the expectation that this is where they should go… but it doesn’t take users to any date associated with Well Being Toronto so that feels problematic.

      3. I also can see that you are able to download a given chart once you are looking at it. This is great for a casual user who decides, in passing, to get a data site they happen to have stumbled upon. But for people (like non-profits) for whom you want your data to be a platform that they build upon this process is probably cumbersome/painful. Why not have it available on the data portal, and ideally as an RSS feed or an API so that as it gets updated they can automatically consume the data into their app? Ultimately I suspect the crew at BuzzData will do the hard work there, simply download all the data on to their platform and invite people to consume it from there, so maybe it won’t matter, but feels like an opportunity to engage quants, data geeks and developers – those that could enhance or turn Well Being Toronto into a platform, will have been lost.

      4. I’d love to hear if there has been any discussion in Toronto gov to open source the code so that other
      municipalities around the world could do implement it too, as well contribute
      add-ons/extensions to expand the features. I can imagine the team at Civic Commons would be really interested in this.

      Great work on the site!

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  3. meznor

    Re: PBO. I’m glad you mentioned the fact that you have to register/log in to view the data. I found this very odd, too, and haven’t registered. The privacy policy links to some larger document that I don’t think anybody would read through. Big turn off.

  4. Pingback: Open Data and Information | OpenHalton

  5. Rob

    Contrary to media reports suggesting that crime is down with headlines about the crime rate down in fact its only the amount of data allowed that is down. Vancouver is the property crime capital of NA, 4 times higher than NYC. This “high volume of minor crime” intentionally omitted has attracted the largest number of gangs per capita than any other place on the face of the planet. minor crimes creating a serious problem.

    Manipulated data has no value.


    Study slamming crime data is off-base, Statistics Canada says
    By Mike Barber, Postmedia News

    One leading criminologist, University of Ottawa professor Ron Melchers, who is also on StatCan’s academic advisory committee says the index compensates for the high volume of minor crimes that comprise the bulk of offences committed seen in the crime rate. “You don’t want these minor offences, because of the shear size of their number, to drive the crime rate.”

    Read more: http://www.canada.com/news/Study+slamming+crime+data+base+Statistics+Canada+says/4253790/story.html#ixzz1SVoNVtqa


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