Open Data: Roadmap to the Data Revolution
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May 28, 2015
Thank you very much. It’s great to be here.
And thank you for coming. I know many of you have travelled a long distance to be here, but I can assure you that it’s your presence and participation that will make this conference a success.
As the President of the Treasury Board of Canada, and the minister responsible for Canada’s open government and open data efforts, I am honoured to be hosting this amazing event with our partners at the International Development Research Centre and the World Bank.
And I have to say, it’s already proving to be a very special gathering.
The Importance of this Conference
The pre-conference events alone have already made this week a great success. Open data experts from around the world have had thoughtful and rich discussions on moving our collective work on open data forward.
Earlier this week, I had the privilege of delivering the closing remarks at the Canadian Open Data Summit, a gathering of government and civil society experts aimed at raising the open data bar here in Canada.
There have also been valuable discussions on the development of open data standards by international experts.
International academics have shared their research at the Open Data Research Symposium.
And civil society has held an all-day “Unconference”, but there is still more work to be done.
Today and tomorrow, individuals and organizations attending from close to 100 countries have the potential to turn the 2015 International Open Data Conference into a watershed moment for the international open data movement — a time to realize lessons learned, solidify gains made, and chart a course toward global open data principles, standards, and greater international collaboration.
This is the call to action for this conference.
And the people who can do it are in this room: experts, practitioners, senior government officials, civil society, academics, and the private sector are all represented at this conference.
If we can agree on a way forward and apply our collective will to the challenge, we can take a major step towards unlocking the value and the benefits of open data for people everywhere.
Here in Canada, our own history has taught us an important lesson: when people have the will and energy to work together for the greater good, nothing can hold them back.
In this country, Canadians are scattered across a vast, diverse territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic Oceans.
But from steam trains and telegraphs, to satellites and fibre optic networks, we have always used technology to bridge distance, connect with each other, and advance together with a shared vision.
Through these efforts, we have learned the value of cooperation.
Not only between communities, but also between governments and all sectors of society — the private sector, civil society, grass roots organizations, and individual citizens.
And it’s my hope that the same spirit of cooperation will drive our work together in spreading the benefits of open data around the world.
Open data is the “raw material for the digital age” — and here in Canada, our goal is to make our open data as liquid as possible, so it can flow out to citizens and innovators as simply and as seamlessly as possible.
And while we have made some progress to date, it hasn’t always been easy, and we still have some ways to go.
Canada’s Role in Support of International Data Efforts
The catalyst for this country was joining the international Open Government Partnership in 2011, and releasing our first Open Government Action Plan in 2012.
Since then, we have developed our open data agenda in incremental steps through consultation and collaboration with citizens, civil society, and other governments.
I’m proud to have issued Canada’s Directive on Open Government.
This policy will make “open by default” the norm for our government, and the release of open data and information mandatory for all departments and agencies.
This kind of mandatory policy is key to standardizing the implementation of open data principles across government, and a practice I hope to see repeated around the world.
We have also launched our state-of-the-art open government portal at open.canada.ca.
This portal not only enables users to access a wealth of federal datasets, but also provides access to completed Access to Information requests, and a variety of proactively disclosed information on government finance, contracts, and more.
All from a single, user-friendly, one-stop hub —unrestricted, free of charge, in plain language, and under an open government licence.
Last week, I announced the launch of the Open Data Exchange, a new public-private collaboration to establish an open data institute that will focus on the commercialization of open data across our country.
We are also no stranger to trying to harmonize open data activities across jurisdictions, because Canadians are stronger when we work together.
In a country like ours, it is imperative to work closely with provincial and municipal governments on a pan-Canadian approach to open data.
We call this initiative “Open Data Canada”.
And in this pursuit of “open data without borders”, we are breaking down jurisdictional barriers between the different levels of government to create a single national open data ecosystem.
There is much still to do, but ultimately any open data user anywhere in Canada will be able to download datasets from any level of government, regardless of what portal they are using.
In my opinion, this is the kind of work than can and must be replicated globally.
Through the adoption of common open data principles, through the application of common standards, through the use of fully open licences, and through an ongoing effort to meet these challenges together, we can establish a roadmap to openness and innovation.
That’s why we are here this week to work with international partners to build capacity around the globe and realize the transformative power of open data to create new social and economic returns around the world.
And that’s also why, in 2013, Canada eagerly accepted the opportunity to join the World Wide Web Foundation to co-chair the Open Government Partnership’s Open Data Working Group.
Canada is very proud of be part of the work being done through the Working Group, and in partnership with the Web Foundation and Canada’s International Development Research Centre, to support Open Data for Development.
This program brings together a global network of stakeholders in Africa, Latin America and Asia to create new open data applications for the benefit of citizens in developing countries.
As part of this program, last December, five organizations were selected to receive international Open Data for Development Research Grants totaling US$100,000.
These grants were given to help support open data activities in developing countries.
The Four Action Tracks
But we can do more by focusing not just on sharing what we have all done, but by committing to work together — here and now — to set out a roadmap for the future of open data.
Just by having all of you here sharing your work and outlining your own vision for open data, this conference is already a tremendous success.
But we cannot let the opportunity pass to ensure long-term impact.
We want to leave these two days, this whole week, with a full range of follow-up activities and commitments.
That’s why we set this conference up with action tracks, each with the goal of generating real progress on common challenges.
There are four Action Tracks.
The first Action Track, “Unlocking the Supply of Open Data”, will focus on developing common principles to set the foundational requirements for ambitious open data initiatives around the world.
The OGP Open Data Working Group is working with a wide network of stakeholders on developing an International Open Data Charter to establish principles adoptable by any jurisdiction.
And this conference will also serve as an important opportunity to launch a global consultation on the Charter.
The second Action Track will focus on working “Toward a Consensus on Open Data Standards”.
We want to accelerate development and adoption of common open data standards that support more effective transparency and reuse.
International standards also help us better compare data across jurisdictions so we can spot trends, mark progress, and collaborate more effectively.
The third objective is focused on “Scaling Solutions that Work”.
There are two key aims for this track.
One, from the government side, is the need to build open data services that can work in local and national settings.
The other is finding repeatable and scalable solutions that can help data-driven businesses.
The fourth Action Track, “Delivering Inclusive Impact” addresses capacity building, including developing open data skills and literacy.
The outcomes of each of these four Action Tracks will contribute to the development of a roadmap for the future of open data.
So our work together in defining these concrete actions and steps is crucial to the success of this conference.
And with all of us here, and thousands participating online around the world, this is the time and this is the place to commit to doing it.
Let me leave you today with one last thought.
This Ottawa conference has the potential to be the moment when the world’s open data community comes together to use knowledge and technology as never before to close the distance between communities, between peoples, and between countries.
And the reason we have come together — the mutual goal we all have — is to put data into the hands of citizens, wherever they are, with the tools they need, to do this, through the power of their imagination and commitment.
We are counting on their creativity to fulfil the potential of open data.
But before we ask more of them, we need to ask more of ourselves.
So I challenge all of us: Let’s be bold, let’s be ambitious. Let’s do great things together!