Canadian government buying into big data with new forward-thinking vision

Canada has unveiled plans to become a leader in the big data revolution.

The Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains has made it clear that the government is committed to the free flow of data – “the raw material of an innovation economy” – while speaking to business leaders and data scientists at Environics Analytics in Toronto on July 28 and laid out five key elements of its plan towards becoming a leader in this space.

The government plans to identify new methods of generating and collecting data “that moves beyond the survey-first approach,” according to Anil Arora, chief statistician of Canada. From there, it will find new ways to integrate data from a variety of sources, as well as making the data easier for anyone to find and use – including focused, “high-value” products such as microdata sets.

Arora also says the government “will support the adoption across the economy of high-throughput tools to analyze and visualize data,” and that it will ensure end-users, whether businesses or citizens, can make “evidence-based decisions from data.”

These five fundamentals will serve as the basis of Canada’s forward-thinking vision for how big data analytics will drive innovation in the country, which it says will lead to better jobs, opportunities, services, and quality of life. No further details were provided, with Arora mentioning that the plan to accomplish these goals is “still a work in progress.”

“We not only live in a world with more data, we also live in a world where more data comes from a wider variety of sources,” Minister Bains says, while adding that data is being collected and analyzed at near real-time speeds, meaning that the time between gaining information and acting on it is getting shorter.

“As that lag time from knowledge to action shrinks, businesses are finding opportunities to innovate, service their customers better, and create entirely new jobs and industries. In short, big data analytics has the potential to impact the lives of Canadians more quickly and directly as never before,” he continues.

Minister Bains says that embracing big data would allow professionals like software developers, for example, to use simple tools “to automatically access machine-readable datasets, which means they wouldn’t need specialized knowledge of government agencies or programs to create a new app, or develop adaptive and predictive learning systems for everything from self-driving cars to cognitive computers.”

And for citizens and communities across Canada,, they would be able to use government data to “more accurately measure our nation’s progress in meeting the needs of all our communities,” which could result in better health outcomes, better delivery of services, a reduction in inequality, and more efficient uses of energy.

However, both the minister and chief statistician recognized that such rapid advancement of technology can be unsettling to many people, and also announced that the government’s plan will be open to public input.

“For the remainder of the summer and through the fall, we will be seeking your input,” Minister Bains says. “We also want to have a candid conversation with you about the social and ethical questions raised by a data-driven world. Specifically, how to adapt our values of privacy, fairness, and equality of opportunity to the data revolution.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Mandy Kovacs
Mandy Kovacs
Mandy is a lineup editor at CTV News. A former staffer at IT World Canada, she's now contributing as a part-time podcast host on Hashtag Trending. She is a Carleton University journalism graduate with extensive experience in the B2B market. When not writing about tech, you can find her active on Twitter following political news and sports, and preparing for her future as a cat lady.

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