The federal government has made some strides in improving in its open government efforts, according but much information still remain hidden from the public. 

There is “much to like” about the latest version of the Open Government Action Plan, unveiled in November, by Treasury Board President Tony Clement, said Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, in a recent blog.

The action plan — a document that civil servants have to follow over the next two years — for what it calls Open Government 2.0 has been issued following a consultation period.

The plan includes a directive that federal employees treat open by default for the handling of non-sensitive information.

There’s a commitment to develop a federated open data search service that provides what the government calls a “no wrong door approach,” an enhanced set of tools and resources to make it easier to search and compare government spending across federal departments; and a new government-wide consultation portal to promote opportunities for public participation. It also launched a new open government portal it hopes the private sector will use to access federal datasets to create new applications and drive innovation, as well as to make it easier for citizens to keep track of what the government is doing. 

“…few would criticize the aspirational goals of Canada’s open government efforts,” Geist wrote in his blog. “Yet scratch the below the surface of new open data sets and public consultations and it becomes apparent that there is much that open government hides.”

Geist noted that while the program makes government data such as statistical information and mapping data publicly available in formats free from licenses, the government “has failed to provide the necessary resources to the access to information system.”

Regular used of the system for instance, “invariably encounter long delays, aggressive use of exceptions to redact important information,” as well as significant fees.

The Information Commissioner of Canada has stated that lack of funding has made it very difficult meet the demand for information and respond to complaints, Geist noted. 

However, taking into account all these things has led him to the conclusion that: “the access to information system is broken.”

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