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Summer 2017

News and Project Updates

Do-It-Yourself Open Data Toolkit Prototype for Municipal Governments.

More cities, large and small, are intrigued by open data and want to use it to better serve their residents. To help cities accelerate this process, the Government of Canada (GoC) contracted OpenNorth to develop of a do-it-yourself (DIY) open data toolkit for municipalities. The DIY toolkit, which will be available on the portal after the Canadian Open Data Summit in Edmonton, provides comprehensive guidelines and a step-by-step process to enable municipalities to initiate an open data program. We are now exploring the expansion of the original advisory group of 15 leading open data cities in Canada which supported the development of the DIY. Read the project announcement in this article.

Read the Executive Summary here: Coming soon: Do-It-Yourself Open Data Toolkit!

Contact us if you would like to discuss how your city can kick start it’s open data program.

Critically Examining Smart Cities.

With the Canadian Government announcing a $300 million Smart Cities Challenge in the 2017 Budget, our federally funded Open Smart Cities in Canada project couldn’t be more timely. Our project analyzes how smart cities jive or conflict with open principles, standards, and approaches. Through an environmental scans of policies and strategies, interviews with smart city managers, international case studies, and provincial use cases designed to assess interjurisdictional interoperability issues, we’re collaborating with the cities of Edmonton, Ottawa, Guelph, and Montreal to tackle these tough questions:

  1. Who defines a smart city and what requirements do they employ?

  2. How do cities in Canada define a smart city?

  3. How do cities procure new technologies that work towards smart city ideals?

  4. What role will open source platforms and open data play in cities’ smart city policies and practices?

  5. How can principles of transparency and equal access translate to municipal smart city policies and practices?

Read Rachel Bloom’s breakdown of the study here. Project content updates will be strategically rolled-out over the course of the year to inform Canada’s national conversation on smart cities.

Indigenous Data Sovereignty.

Working in collaboration with the British Columbia First Nations’ Data Governance Initiative (BCFNDGI) and regional First Nations leaders, OpenNorth has been researching the relationship between open data and indigenous data sovereignty. The result of these conversations, Decolonizing Data: Indigenous Data Sovereignty Primer, will be released over coming months. We’re also looking forward to participating in the Annual Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission, which will be a great opportunity to learn about local and regional data issues in the context of nation-to-nation relationships.

In the news:

  • Expectations for the Canadian Open Data Summit (CODS17). This year’s Canadian Open Data Summit marks the 5th edition of Canada’s annual gathering for the open data community. Issues of data ethics, data poverty, and data sovereignty are gaining more attention. So what should we expect at CODS17? What are we looking for at this important event? Read our blog to get our take.

  • OpenCorporates take-down. The Quebec government issued a notice to the largest open database of companies and company data in the world, demanding them to remove content about Quebec companies. OpenCorporates asked the Quebec court to provide clarity on the rules around using Quebec data. The primary goal of the database is to “make information on companies more usable and more widely available for the public benefit, particularly to tackle the use of companies for criminal or anti-social purposes, for example corruption, money laundering and organised crime.” Read more about the issue in LaPresse, or listen to Jean-Noé Landry as the Quebec spokesperson for OpenCorporates, explain why the organization wants the court to clarify its legal grounds for accessing open data from Quebec.

Upcoming Projects

International Open Data Charter.

Are you familiar with the International Open Data Charter? You probably should be if you’re reading this newsletter. Building on our baseline study of the potential that the Charter has to help 10 Canadian cities and 4 provinces, we will collect more data to gain broader insights into how governments use the Charter principles. We will scope the potential for a longer term, and more international, learning report focused on sub-national governments, including a number of international comparisons.

City of Toronto Open Data Strategy.

From June to October, OpenNorth will be leading a multi-stakeholder engagement process to develop the open data strategy, and roadmap, of Canada’s largest city. A multi-disciplinary community advisory group will be convened to inform this work. Stay tuned for more information about consultation activities. We see this as a great opportunity to create an engaging, inclusive, and well-documented process for the benefit of other cities. See our Project Coordinator job posting [posting now closed] .

Represent API: New Coordination Approach.

With the help of our newly hired Represent Coordinator, Iris Rosenbaum, and volunteer tech capacity, we are curating the community of dozens of Represent API users and documenting use cases. These use cases will tell the story of how Canadians have been able to better connect with their candidates and elected officials. Look out for these use cases over the summer months!

Open Data Assessments.

Analyzing global trends, assessing and ranking data from countries according to readiness, implementation and impact, the 4th edition of the Open Data Barometer report shows that while some governments are advancing towards these aims, open data remains the exception, not the rule. Join Ana Branducescu, Web Foundation’s Barometer Researcher, for a webinar discussion on June 22 about why Canada came in second place and other critical findings from this global study.

Staffing up.

We’re excited to announce the addition of three new staff members to the OpenNorth team:

  • Michelle Nguyen will be joining our applied research team

  • Jim Morris will be our in-house developer, assisting with Citizen Budget

  • Christian Medina will be our Fulfillment coordinator for Citizen Budget

Go team, go!

Citizen Budget

Saskatoon, Red Deer, Thousand Oaks and Hinton are some of the most recent cities to use Citizen Budget to broaden their budget engagement beyond town halls, and improve their insight into residents’ spending priorities. For its 3rd Citizen Budget consultation, the City of Yellowknife took its commitment to transparency to new levels by publicizing the live results on its website, thereby allowing their residents to track Citizen Budget results in the same way that city administrators do.

Spotlight on Thousand Oaks, California

As part of its larger engagement effort to to educate and engage residents about the city budget, and gaining insight into their spending priorities, the City of Thousand Oaks, California, recently wrapped up a highly successful launch of its online Citizen Budget engagement tool.

Part of its success can be attributed to the City’s robust budget promotion campaign. This campaign involved budget pop-up booths at farmer’s markets, Earth Day events and shopping malls, in addition to press releases and print ads, newsletters, a social media campaign, postering and utility bills inserts. Their Citizen Budget exercise attracted over 1200 visitors over a four week period, gaining valuable quantitative and qualitative insights into residents’ priorities on essential city services and programs. For an overview of the city’s budget engagement efforts, see:

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