by Pierre-Antoine Ferron, Jean-Noé Landry

As we watch Canadian governments and their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, certain issues are coming to light that have repercussions on Canadian open government practices, namely: coordination and standardisation, communication of data, and privacy and openness principles. This is also Canada’s opportunity to assert leadership globally and to demonstrate the application of open government in support of its crisis response.

Coordination and standardisation

Coordination and standardisation of data has long been a challenge in Canada, particularly with its federated form of government and its multiple levels of jurisdiction. These issues are well known to the Canadian government — the Privy Council Office addressed them recently through its Data Strategy Roadmap for the Federal Public Service, which sets out recommendations on coordination and collaboration between federal agencies and other Canadian governments, as well as non-government sectors. …

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James, Gathany. 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public Health Image Library.

The Open Cities Network brings together open data practitioners from around the world who are working to support local governments and cities on open approaches to the use of data and technology. This post provides updates from Open & Agile Smart Cities, Open Contracting Partnership, Sunlight Foundation, Open Data Charter, and Reboot.

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March and the initiation of a global lockdown, public attention has been increasingly focused on data related to the outbreak. …

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OpenNorth recently had the privilege of delivering a day-long workshop in Halifax on effective data management practices to an engaged group of individuals who work in the field of homelessness service provision (such as homeless shelters and outreach centres). OpenNorth’s workshop was a part of a greater two-day long workshop organized by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to guide homelessness service providers in implementing the Homeless Individuals and Families Information System (HIFIS) version 4 in the Atlantic Region. …

By Christian Medina

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In this ongoing series of posts, I discuss questions and observations that have risen after going down the “Open Data rabbit hole”. In a previous blog-post, I discussed some of the challenges that I perceive the open data field is facing. However, after a year of chasing this metaphorical white rabbit — lo and behold — I find myself deeper into Open Data Wonderland, facing new and interesting characters.

I have found that the work we do in open data is intrinsically tied to other trends in open, transparent government. As such, open data expertise needs to be put at the service of other complementary initiatives. Fiscal transparency and open contracting, for example, entail making relevant anti-corruption datasets open and discoverable to the public. …

Rachel Bloom, Project Manager, Open Smart Cities in Canada, OpenNorth

A little over a year ago, a team of experts and researchers set out to demystify what shapes smart cities in Canada and what defines an Open Smart City. Since then, the Open Smart Cities in Canada project has reviewed smart city definitions, visions, governance structures, strategies, reports, components, standards, relevant legislation and regulations, and practices across Canada and abroad. In Canada, we interviewed representatives from four cities (Edmonton, Guelph, Montreal, and Ottawa) and the Government of Ontario (Ministries of: Economic Development and Growth; Research, Innovation and Science; Energy; Natural Resources and Forestry; Transportation; Municipal Affairs; and the Treasury Board Secretariat) and consulted with representatives from the Government of British Columbia. The results were published in our Assessment Report’s case studies in four Canadian cities and one interjurisdictional case study in Ontario about its Smart Grid and smart meter data. In addition, we conducted an environmental scan (E-Scan) of smart city definitions and international shapers, as well as their promoted components, which were presented in our first public webinar. …

By Christian Medina

Originally published on OpenNorth’s website

Have you ever been out on the town, when an overcoming feeling of hunger takes over and all there is to eat is a greasy, soggy slice of “pepperoni” pizza? You might be in a food desert, an area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food.

In the world of open data, one comes across similar instances — a data desert. Researchers, practitioners and a civil society organisations often can not find specific datasets or information needed to fulfil their needs. Granted, there are several “fast-food” data options (such as incomplete government data sets, or indexes gathered by private sector interests with unclear methodologies), and clever researchers can find ways around lack of access and information. …

Join us in welcoming:

Robin, Applied Research Analyst, Urban Development

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As a researcher in urban development, Robin Basalaev-Binder’s professional interests center on understanding and addressing socio-economic inequalities and injustice in the North American context, and globally. In addition to being a core researcher at OpenNorth, Robin is also a Research Associate at the McGill School of Urban Planning, exploring questions of urban governance in sustainability and resilience planning in Montreal, New York, and other North American cities. Robin has a forthcoming publication, co-authored with her colleagues from McGill, titled The High Cost of Short-Term Rentals in New York City. Robin’s personal interests align closely with those of her research, tying urban planning and development into art, community, music, food, history, and their ultimate coming together in human interactions. …

While AI may make cities’ planning and governance more efficient, it needs to be regulated to ensure it complies with legal rights and protections

Algorithms, machine learning and, more broadly, artificial intelligence (AI) promise to introduce astounding levels of efficiencies to cities’ monitoring of citizens and infrastructure, their planning and governance, and their service response and decision-making. While we have yet to automate all of our planning and resource allocation decisions, advances in machine learning and neural networks, as well as our ability to collect data through even more network sensors, are bringing automation at least to certain parts of our civic problem-solving processes. One well known and somewhat contentious example is the use of predictive crime analytics to dispatch police units proactively, in anticipation of crime incidents. …

A joint post between OpenNorth and Code for Canada

Canadian cities are becoming more open, whether through the growing volume of publicly available datasets, more interactive and data-driven forms of civic engagement, or principles like ‘open by default’ that set new standards for openness. Historically, these governance reforms have been propelled by the open data movement. However, we are increasingly seeing interventions coming from the civic tech scene, a rapidly professionalizing movement that uses technology, design and data to address civic problems. While the open data movement has tended to operate in the realm of policy and principle, civic tech has focused on building practical solutions. We believe these two parallel movements have a lot to offer one another. …

By Jean-Noé Landry and Suthee Sangiambut (OpenNorth)

With over 50% of the human population now living in urban areas, it is no wonder that we are constantly re-moulding and re-imagining our cities. No longer is it enough to be a big metropolis. Cities must be connected, self-aware, intelligent entities; they must be smart.

Over recent years, the term ‘smart’ has come to imply a certain idealised view of the city, where everything and anything can be monitored through sensors (the Internet of Things) and the city itself is governed by software that automate much of decision making and everyday service provision. These are being manifested in a variety of solutions from the private sector, often branded as smart city solutions. A 2012 McKinsey article claims they will result in “50 percent reduction over a decade in energy consumption, a 20 percent decrease in traffic, an 80 percent improvement in water usage, a 20 percent reduction in crime rates”. Such development, however beneficial, is not without its own risks. …


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Open North is a Canadian not-for-profit organization specialized in data, technology, and civic participation

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