New features include better search capabilities and a place where developers can access technical information to help create applications

Ottawa improves open data portal

 

The federal government has launched an improved version of its Open Data Portal, along with a new open government licence for using datasets, calling on software developers and citizens to use more of the information to build applications for fun or profit.

“These tools will provide unprecedented access to federal data and the right to reuse it,” Treasury Board President Tony Clement said Tuesday. Treasury Board is responsible for most federal IT initiatives.

Also on Tuesday at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, Clement said Canada, the United States, the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Russia signed a new Open Data Charter.

The Charter commits signatories to implement five foundational open data principles and international best practices by the end of 2015.

The principles include having national government policies encouraging open data by default, releasing quality data in a timely way, releasing as much data in as many open formats as possible, to be transparent about data collection and standards and to consult with users.

The improved Canadian site – based on an open source Open Government Platform — includes new targeted search capabilities, the ability for people to rate datasets and share them through social media, and a Developers Corner where developers can access technical information to help them create apps.

Clement also announced plans for a National Open Data Challenge and Appathon this fall using to encourage the use of federal datasets. Details on the contest have yet to be set.

The upgraded Open Government Licence, which offers unrestricted re-use of government data and information, is written in simpler language than the first version. It is also being adopted by Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, which should make it easier for developers to combine data from different levels of government to create richer apps.

Governments around the world are embracing open data policies and releasing terabytes of data they have been collecting for years.

The hope is people will see it as an act of open government, as well as a way to find new uses for data which senior levels of government collect in great detail.

In his speech Clement said the data “is a treasure trove of information that offers endless possibilities for researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs.”

 

However, the federal data has no personal identifying information. Information Ottawa has on criminals or defence strategy is excluded under federal privacy or secrecy laws.

The federal open data policy also does not supercede the need to file Freedom of Information requests for studies or memos.

The federal portal has datasets from over 20 departments and agencies including local census, crime statistics, immigration, air quality and mapping data.

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