Canadian government’s open data portal criticized after launch
The federal government has launched an open data portal as part of a one-year pilot project.
Stockwell Day, president of the Treasury Board and minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, announced the portal today (March 17) in Vancouver.
According to a government news release, the portal will offer 260,000 data sets from 10 federal departments—Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Environment Canada, Department of Finance Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Library and Archives Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Statistics Canada, Transport Canada, and the Treasury Board Secretariat.
Some Canadians had called for the Conservative government to put up an open data portal during public consultations on its digital economy strategy.
“The Government of Canada is launching its Open Data Portal to make a large amount of data accessible through a single window,” Day said in the release. “With this portal, application developers can reuse data for commercial or research purposes to benefit all Canadians in a variety of ways.”
A backgrounder accompanying the release states: “The Open Data Portal is a one-stop shop for federal Government data, providing data that can be downloaded free of charge. The portal facilitates access to datasets available on websites to citizens, researchers, voluntary organizations and the private sector. Application developers can reuse and mashup the data from the portal for commercial purposes, research, or community services to benefit all Canadians in a variety of ways.”
Examples of data to be made available through the portal include, according to the backgrounder, sets on the number of dairy cows by province, greenhouse gas emissions reporting, and access to information and privacy statistics.
The open data portal has already drawn fire from the Liberal party.
“The Harper regime is the most secretive and controlling government in Canadian history. It has no credibility when it comes to openness or transparency and today’s announcement further proves that point,” Carolyn Bennett, Liberal democratic renewal critic, said in a news release today.
“The Conservatives’ pilot project releases little information that was not already available and does nothing to improve access to government spending details or speed up access to information requests.”
In a blog post today, David Eaves, a Vancouver-based open government activist who was involved with launch, called the existence of the open data portal “significant”.
But Eaves argued that the licence through which the data is released is “deeply, deeply flawed”.
“Some might go so far as to say that the license does not make it data open at all - a critique that I think is fair. I would say this: presently the open data license on data.gc.ca effectively kills any possible business innovation, and severally limits the use in non-profit realms,” he wrote.
You can follow Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.