Technicity: Honing in on business opportunities with open data

When it comes to open data, the concept is about far more than simple transparency.

City, provincial, and federal governments publishing more data publicly benefits the average consumer, and offers potentially profitable opportunities for businesses, according to one open data expert.

“In order for businesses to use open data in their work in a mainstream way, government and other data providers must build strong and reliable data infrastructure to supply them with open data they can depend on,” says Bianca Wylie, head of the Open Data Institute (ODI) of Toronto.

The subject of open data and its innumerable business opportunities will be a primary subject of discussion at IT World Canada’s Technicity 2016 event. Wylie, along with City of Toronto deputy CIO Lan Nguyen and Ontario manager of open government office Nosa Eno-Brown, will lead a panel during the event on Dec. 7.

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Wylie says that while some government entities, including the City of Toronto, are currently publishing some data, it primarily exists in lengthy lists (a spreadsheet containing all the city’s transformers, for example). The key is analyzing and improving that data for consumer and business usage.

Some companies are already making the move to fill this gap, however. One such success story, in Wylie’s mind, is the RocketMan app, which uses public TTC data to inform users of the next train or bus that’s arriving near them.

And while the City of Toronto is in the early stages of establishing open data policies and practices, there are plenty of opportunities which create transparency for residents and offers leverage for businesses. Wylie explained one such opportunity for the City is to open up data in Parks and Recreation so that families can more easily register for recreation programs.

ODI Toronto supports the use of open data in public policy, civic tech, and political engagement. They’ve sponsored and co-hosted numerous events to promote the use of open data, including the 2014 Bike Share hackathon, the 2015 Accessibility Camp hackathon, and the 2015 and 2016 Toronto Public Library Hackathons. We’ve held various data literacy, open data management, and privacy workshops for the Ontario Non-Profit Network and other public agencies. Currently, ODI Toronto is part of a University of Toronto task force looking at improving governance at the City of Toronto.

The Open Data Exchange, a Canadian data commercialization marketplace, is in the process of compiling the Open Data 150, a list of Canadian businesses using open data.

“ODX is a great national resource that we have as part of our open government plan to support the business community in its use of open data,” Wylie said.

She noted that if any business wants to know how to get started in using open data, they should connect with ODX.

Technicity is a one-day conference produced by IT World Canada that explores how the City of Toronto, local businesses and the IT industry are rethinking service delivery, operations and citizen engagement around the priority areas of transit, housing, anti-poverty and youth.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Lindsey Peacock
Lindsey Peacock
Lindsey Peacock is a freelance writer, editor and American expat based in Toronto. This proud Atlanta native has written for a variety of news and business publications across North America, including Business in Vancouver, BCBusiness magazine, Fort McMurray Today and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Blogging, sweet tea and black-and-white movies are a few of her favourite things.

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