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This Week: Major updates to Canada's open government initiatives

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It was a very eventful week in open data in Canada with the release of several interesting open government policy updates. If you are interested in learning more about these policies and reading some expert analysis of recent advancements, we suggest joining the CivicAccess.ca and Open Data Society of BC mailing lists where members of our team often share their insights.

  • The federal government relaunched data.gc.ca with an updated license and portal based on CKAN. Of the many improvements to the site, two features stand out. It is now possible to search summaries of completed Access to Information requests; this information was previously spread across 170 government websites. You can also now publicly request vote up datasets, such as the important postal code database. These are welcomed advances to the government’s open data strategy, but as Tracey Lauriault points out, “really solid data sets related to government transparency, government accountability” are still missing.

  • Canada signed the G8 Open Data Charter during this week’s summit in Northern Ireland. The Open Knowledge Foundation explains that the charter “endorses the principle of ‘open by default’ and makes clear that open data must be open to all and usable by both machines and humans (as per the Open Definition.” Notably, section 6.2 of the charter (“Collective Actions”) lists postcodes as an example of high value datasets that should be released by all G8 members; it is no surprise it is the most voted dataset on the new data.gc.ca.

  • As described on the DataBC blog, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and the federal government have adopted a common license, named the Open Government License, for their open data portals, making it easier for people to use data from multiple governments without having to interpret each license and meet each license’s different terms and conditions.

  • The World Bank’s Open Finances group is soliciting feedback on how organizations use open data through a survey open until June 30th. The goal of this study is to understand the demand for open financial data and gaps in its supply and demand. The survey is open to all!

  • Alisha Green of the Sunlight Foundation recently started a blog series about municipal zoning data. In these posts, Alisha argues for the release of zoning data in open formats as it is a dataset that “literally shapes the environment in which people live, work, and play.” We suggest reading her other posts about the impact of open zoning data and recommendations for stronger data for further insight.

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