Year in Review: Open Data 2017

On December 18th, 2017 I ran a “Year in Review: Open Data 2017” event in Ottawa.  Graciously hosted and snacks provided by Invest Ottawa, the event attracted 40 people to Bayview Yards on a snowy evening.  Speakers from the City of Ottawa, Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada (TBS), Statistics Canada and the Ottawa Civic Tech community looked back at their open data accomplishments of 2017 and set the stage for further work in 2018.  Throw in a closing panel on the hopes and fears for open data in 2018, and a fun and informative evening was had by all.

Invest Ottawa’s CEO Michael Tremblay opens event

The evening opened with a warm welcome from Michael Tremblay, President and CEO of Invest Ottawa. Michael greeted the attendees and presenters and reinforced Invest Ottawa’s commitment to support civil society innovation in areas like open data.  I followed Michael’s introduction with a review of key Ottawa open data stories in 2017.  You can see the presentation at:  Stories included the release of the 2016 census, Ontario’s signing onto the International Open Data Charter and Ottawa’s Open311 pilot.

Rob Davidson performs quick overview of 2017 open data in Ottawa

The City of Ottawa was next and discussed their work about formalizing data release strategies, the inclusion of the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study neighbourhood boundary files in the City of Ottawa Open Data Catalogue and their Open311 initiative.  Many thanks to Marc Rene de Cotret and the rest of the team from City Hall.

City of Ottawa team outlines 2017 open data accomplishments

Matthew Darwin of Civic Tech Ottawa discussed his work with the Ottawa Open311 data and compared Ottawa favourably to other Canadian cities releasing Open311 data and APIs.  Matthew also talked about his challenges using and specific application of Federally released weather data.

Matthew Darwin shows how Open311 data works in his Community Dashboard

Alannah Hilt, from TBS, stepped up next to discuss portal progress.  Alannah highlighted the infrastructure updates occurring behind the scenes to improve open data release and management.   Alannah also shared how upcoming 2018 legislation will impact the initiative.

Alannah Hilt from TBS Canada outlines improvements

Matt Leduc and team from Statistics Canada presented some very interesting visualization projects that leverage open data.  They took us through the entire design cycle experience for a sunburst visualization of jobs and salary data.  Many attendees were quite impressed by the final visualization product.  They also shared their evolution of their visualization expression journey through a chronological product showcase.

Matt Leduc highlights Statistics Canada’s Job Sunburst Visualization

The final group presenting was from Ottawa Civic Tech.  Sean Boots and Jason White talked about their Big Little Contracting project which focuses on Federal Government contract analysis.  Much of the discussion featured the challenges they have had finding and cleaning the contract data for analysis.  Many of their issues could be addressed if the Open Contracting Data Standard was adopted by the Government of Canada.

Sean Boots and Jason White present the Big Little Contract project

We closed the evening with a panel discussion about hopes (and fears) for open data in 2018.  I moderated with Tina Groves of Data for Good Ottawa, Lisa Deacon of Datafest Ottawa, and Jason White of Open Data Ottawa sharing their thoughts about open data 2018.  It was clear from the discussion:

  • Governments need  to adopt more open data standards to enable cross-jurisdictional collaboration and create safe places for civil society and residents to co-create open data solutions with government.
  • Government’s focus on the number of datasets opened as a measure of success has run it course and it is now important to assess how open data is (and is not) helping address society’s most pressing issues.

Lively panel discussion about open data in 2018. (left to right: Rob Davidson, Jason White, Lisa Deacon and Tina Groves)

The panel wrapped up the evening proceedings.  It was good to see the various levels of government showing genuine interest in their colleagues’ progress and looking for opportunities to share and work together.  Many thanks to all the presenters, panelists, and especially the attendees for shrugging off the stormy night and making an evening enjoyed by all.

Rob Davidson

Open Data Institute Ottawa node

(special thanks to my daughter Zoe Davidson for taking the pictures)


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