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Lots of Open Data Action in Canada

A lot of movement on the open data (and not so open data) front in Canada.

Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Open Data Portal Launched

Some readers may remember that last week I wrote a post about the imminent launch of CIDA's open data portal. The site is now live and has a healthy amount of data on it. It is a solid start to what I hope will become a robust site. I'm a big believer - and supporter of the excellent advocacy efforts of the good people at Engineers Without Borders - that the open data portal would be greatly enhanced if CIDA started publishing its data in compliance with the emerging international standard of the International Aid Transparency Initiative as these 20 leading countries and organizations have.

If anyone creates anything using this data, I'd love to see it. One simple start might be to try using the Open Knowledge Foundation's open source Where Does my Money Go code, to visualize some of the spending data. I'd be happy to chat with anyone interested in doing this, you can also check out the email group to find some people experienced in playing with the code base.

Improved License on the CIDA open data portal and data.gc.ca

One thing I've noticed with the launch of the CIDA open data portal was how the license was remarkably better than the license at data.gc.ca - which struck me as odd, since I know the feds like to be consistent about these types of things. Turns out that the data.gc.ca license has been updated as well and the two are identical. This is good news as some of the issues that were broken with the previous license have been fixed. But not all. The best license out there remains the license at data.gov (that's a trick question, because data.gov has no license, it is all public domain! Tricky eh...? Nice!) but if you are going to have a license, the UK Open Government License used by at data.gov.uk is more elegant, freer and satisfies a number of the concerns I cite above and have heard people raise.

So this new data.gc.ca license is a step in the right direction, but still behind the open gov leaders (teaching lawyers new tricks sadly takes a long time, especially in government).

Great site, but not so open data: WellBeing Toronto

Interestingly, the City of Toronto has launched a fabulous new website called Well Being Toronto. It is definitely worth checking out. The main problem of course is that while it is interesting to look at, the underlying data is, sadly, not open. You can't play with the data, such as mash it up with your own (or another jurisdiction's) data. This is disappointing as I believe a number of non-profits in Toronto would likely find the underlying data quite helpful/important. I have, however, been told that the underlying data will be made open. It is something I hope to check in on again in a few months as I fear that it may never get prioritized, so it may be up to Torontonians to whold the Mayor and council's feet to the fair to ensure it gets down.

Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) launches (non-open) data website

It seems the PBO is also getting in on the data action with the launch of a beta site that allows you to "see" budgets from the last few years. I know that the Parliamentary Budget Office has been starved of resources, so they deserve to be congratulated for taking this first, important step. Also interesting is that the data has no license on the website, which could make it the most liberally licensed open data portal in the country. The site does have big downsides. First, the data can only be "looked" at, there is no obvious (simple) way to download it and start playing with it. More oddly still the PBO requires that users register with their email address to view the data. This seems beyond odd and actually, down right creepy, to me. First, parliament's budget should be free and open and one should not need to hand over an email address to access it. Second, the email addresses collected appear to serve no purpose (unless the PBO intends to start spamming us), other than to tempt hackers to hack their site so they can steal a list of email addresses.

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