Ottawa announces second action plan on open data

The Harper government will issue a new order exhorting federal bureaucrats to maximize their efforts to release eligible government data to the public for creating apps if proposals issued Thursday are approved.

The idea is one of a raft of suggestions put out by the government after consulting with the public on the next wave of its open government initiative.

The proposals — what the government calls action plan 2.0 of its open data initiative — say federal departments would have to release plans detailing how they will copy with the directive, issue an inventory on their data and information holdings and only publish data in accessible and open formats under an open and unrestrictive licence.

Over the next two years the government would also create an open data institute — what it now calls CODEX (Canadian Open Data Exchange) — a national marketplace that  would includes an online community for those wanting to commercialize federal open data.

The Harper government promised in the federal budget it will spend $3 million over three years on the institute to work with the private sector and academics to help realize the full potential of open data for Canadians. “CODEX will bring together all of the pieces to enable a sustainable market-driven, open-data ecosystem whose success is measured by commercialization outcomes such as job creation, company creation, and wealth creation,” says the proposed action plan.

“CODEX will develop industry standards for open data, build a national marketplace where commercialization of open data can flourish, and support a pan-Canadian open data innovation community that will help incubate the next generation of data-driven companies. Through CODEX, Canadians will be able to see the measurable economic benefits of open data in the form of job creation, investment in data-driven companies, and the establishment of a national hub for the commercialization of open data.”

People have until Oct. 20 to comment on the proposals. The final plan will be released at the end of this month.

Since the Harper government announced four years ago that it would officially adopt an open data policy more than 40 federal departments and agencies have made available more than 200,000 datasets on everything from weather, to border wait times, to product recalls, to maps and geospatial data has been released.

It has insisted application developers will want to leverage databases for a wide range of commercial and non-commercial uses.

It often quotes a 2013 study by a research company that concluded seven industries could generate more than US$3 trillion a year in additional value as a result of open data — although not all of the data would come from governments. The report also cautions that  investments in technology and expertise are required to get that dollar figure.

To get the ball rolling in addition to releasing data the Harper government has opened a central open data portal where organizations and people can search for databases and information Ottawa is making public, issued a new open government licence any level of government can use to frame the reuse of their data, and held an open data hackathon where some 900 developers created over 100 apps using federal data.

The proposed new action plan would open a new open data portal with expanded services by 2016, and create a government-wide Open Science Implementation Plan with strategies and milestones to maximize access to federally-funded scientific data.

It would also pass legislation making it mandatory for resource companies to publicly report how much they pay Ottawa in licence fees, rental and entry fees, royalties and other costs.

Finally, it would develop online tools, training materials, and other resources to enable Canadians to assess and improve their individual digital skills. That includes funding initiatives aimed at improving the digital skills of Canadians, particularly in rural small business, essential skills for northern youth and business technology management accreditation.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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