Public consultation to guide Canada's open government strategy


In an effort to gain acceptance into the international Open Government Partnership, Canada must first develop open government commitments, which will be similar to the National Action Plan published by the United States Sept. 20, 2011. On Jan. 16 Canada closed the 41-day comment period that will inform the nation's open government plan, and all responses received through the Open Government consultation are now publicly available.

The Canadian government will publish a summary of findings in a March 2012 report, according to its open government website.

Some have said the open government consultation itself would benefit from greater openness. Citizen's submissions are not searchable or downloadable, noted David Eaves, an independent open government consultant based in Vancouver, B.C., in a Jan. 19 blog post.

Eaves said it would useful to "re-organize them, visualize them, search and parse them as well as play with the submissions so as to make the enormous number of answers easier to navigate and read." In the blog post, Eaves shared his submission to the consultation.

In a March 18, 2011 statement Stockwell Day, president of the Treasury Board and minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, recommitted the Canadian government to expanding open government through "open data," "open information" and "open dialogue."

The Canadian government can work toward these goals by adopting a permissive Creative Commons license or release to the public domain all data, mandating that agencies release several high-value data sets and creating a searchable database of access to information requests and responses, said Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, in its open government consultation response (.pdf).

Eaves' recommendations echoed many of CIPPIC's suggestions, but he also emphasized the need to publish data in an application programming language, or API. This allows government and non-government platforms to integrate government data right into applications.

The Canadian government recently published guidelines for departments' use of social media tools. At the time Gartner E-Government Analyst Andrea Di Maio, was among the critics of rigid, governmentwide rules. He wrote that the guideline "is all about obligations and risks, and there is nothing about how to encourage, assess, reward the use of web 2.0 tool to improve individual contributions to department's outcomes."

"There is a clear and present danger that this wind of centralization and control will turn the Canadian government from a leader to a follower in IT-driven transformation," he concluded.

For more:
- see all the comments from Canada's Open Government Consultation
- download the CIPPIC report (.pdf)
- see Eaves' blog post
- see the Gartner blog post

Related Articles:
British Columbia may launch Internet voting pilots
Ireland unveils open data and eGovernment plan
U.K. government unveils 'midata' initiative