The federal government held a hackathon to drive interest in its open data program, but the province of Ontario will take an even more radical step with an ongoing, online voting process to request the release of public sector information.
Ontario government services minister John Milloy said Monday visitors to the province’s open data portal will see a splash page asking them to say what to open or allow them to browse the existing public data sets. The page will also feature a “most voted on” section to show popular or high-demand data.
Ontario’s latest foray into open data follows the Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE) hosted by Treasury Board Secretariat, which encouraged developers and citizens to create useful apps out of public information. Milloy suggested the province has a similar goal, not just in creating apps but in debunking the “us vs. them” mentality that sometimes happens between citizens and public servants.
“That’s how people see government — government’s up on the hill, government has all the solutions to all the problems, and its role is to really grant favours to the public,” he said. “No wonder we have this cynicism and this lack of engagement with the public . . . they’re going to need access to the same kind of information that we as policy-makers have.”
So far many of the data sets on the Ontario portal have garnered only a handful of votes, and it may take time to recognize how the various bundles of information might be put to good use. Here are some possibilities for IT leaders:
Ontario Ministry of Finance Forecasts: Usually prepared before the provincial budgets, these could offer a helpful snapshot of the economic outlook for the industry sector where a CIO works — perhaps something that could be served up internally as a dashboard to the CEO.
Ontario Ministry of Transportation Corporate Performance Measurement: Improved CPM has long been among the hoped-for outcomes of business intelligence and other analytics software tools. This look at how a major government department tackles it could prove instructive for a wide range of industries.
Select Ontario Website survey: Ever create an online tool where it was hard to gauge the success (or identify the reasons why or why not)? This data set may provide a case study of a provincial project that could give some insights.
Ontario’s open data portal is only two years old, and the government has made changes to its data usage licence in response to public criticism. Milloy acknowledged that despite everything they can vote on today, there will no doubt be requests for still more information to be made available via its open data program.
“In many cases this information is out there, but this is about translating that into machine-readable format.”