Beyond Open Data Day: Ottawa

Building open data momentum in Canada’s capital

Rob Davidson
May 3, 2018 · 3 min read

Code for Canada and Ontario’s Open Government Office are collaborating to support events that extend the momentum and impact of International Open Data Day. These events help residents learn about the potential of open data, and discover ways to use technology, data and design to make a positive impact in their communities.

In this guest post, Rob Davidson from Ottawa’s Open Data Institute recaps one such event that took place in the capital on April 3, 2018.

If you’re working on an open data or civic tech event in Ontario, and would like to know more about how Code for Canada and the Open Government Office can support your efforts, contact Kelly Halseth at kelly@codefor.ca or the Open Government office at opengov@ontario.ca.


Rob Davidson from Ottawa’s Open Data Institute speaks to the civic potential of open data at an event in the capital on April 3, 2018.

Open Data Day 2018 arrived a month late in Ottawa but that did not dampen the open data community’s interest in the event! Forty-three people registered, and most braved the storm forecast to show up for two presentations by Rob Davidson, lead and founder of Open Data Institute Ottawa, on beneficial applications of open data to current social needs.

Ottawa’s Open Data Day event on April 3 attracted a variety of people, for a variety of reasons!

The first presentation, “Open Data vs Post-Truth Politics” explored the facts behind the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data breach, and how open data can help combat the fake news conundrum. Open data, when combined with large-scale fact checking services (preferably open), can provide a useful vaccine to the fake news virus.

The Q&A covered a number of interesting ideas. We discussed how Canada really needs a National Data Strategy to better govern all sectors’ use of data and to provide a better context for open data initiatives. We also explored whether Canada should look to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation as a guide for our own regulatory framework.

The second presentation, “Open Contracting data: More than just transparency,” made the case for governments of all levels to open up contracting data. Transparency into how governments spend taxpayer dollars is still the primary motivation for open contracting but there are additional benefits emerging and gathering momentum. As an example, the ability for open contracting to enable more small to medium-sized businesses participate in the government procurement process! The Open Contracting Partnership was introduced as a facilitator for better open contracting initiatives. The Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) was also presented as a critical component of any open contracting project:

  • OCDS can enable governments to better collaborate on procurement across jurisdictions
  • OCDS provides an important separation between operational procurement systems and open data access
  • Governments, domestically and internationally, can collaborate on digital tools that leverage the OCDS. (Canada’s joining the D7 and the creation of the Canadian Digital Service puts a bright light on this)

The Q&A addressed the need for better procurement transparency in Canada at all levels of government. Examples that came up were the Federal Phoenix pay system and the LRT project in Ottawa.

The event closed with a review of upcoming events during Open Government Week, May 7–11th.

Afterwards, some attendees enthused about the potential of open data stuck around to participate in Civic Tech Ottawa’s weekly hacknight, where they had the chance to act on what they learned.

Over half the attendees from the Open Data Day event stuck around to participate in Civic Tech Ottawa’s weekly hacknight!

Special thanks to our sponsors: the Government of Ontario and Code for Canada, because without their support this event would not have been possible!

Code for Canada

Technology and design for the common good

Rob Davidson

Written by

All things Open, especially Data

Code for Canada

Technology and design for the common good

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