As December comes to a close after an exciting year, I would like to thank everyone at OpenNorth and all of our partners, board members, and collaborators. This year, our work together has achieved several milestones including:
August brought to a close the publication of the Open Smart Cities Guide (Version 1.0). This guide provides a first ever definition for the open smart city and serves as a starter kit for municipal stakeholders and decision makers.
February saw the culmination of OpenNorth’s consulting activities over multiple years in the initiation of the OpenNorth Applied Research Lab; currently staffed by Miranda Sculthorp [Urban Research Analyst] and Hannah Ker [Open Data Analyst]. The Lab is the result of an organisational shift beyond tool-building, towards research and fact-based consulting.
As part of the International Open Data Conference (IODC) funded by the International Development Research Center’s (IDRC) Open Data for Development (OD4D) program, OpenNorth co-organised with other leading open government organisations the second global Open Cities Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina in September. Participants considered what “open” means for a city today when asked to go beyond open data and smart initiatives to emphasize public access, expression, assembly, participation, and, ultimately, power and agency. The State of Open Data publication, also a project of IDRC and OD4D administered by OpenNorth, bolstered the progress made at international open data conferences around the world. With over 30 chapters authored by leading open data experts around the world, it takes stock of the last ten years of the open data movement.
In Ukraine, we completed an open data benchmarking project with the Eurasia Foundation to aid the Government of Ukraine in assessing and developing open data production. The output of this project was implemented as part of the Government of Ukraine’s open data policy. Further training of Ukraine government representatives on open data and civic engagement was conducted subsequent to the Global Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit in Georgia, July 2018, where OpenNorth participated in multiple sessions on public administration transparency and reform.
Funded by a National Democratic Institute subgrant, OpenNorth’s international work in Ukraine continued throughout the fall, marking the launch of a second key organisational pillar. Pillar three commits the organisation to building its body of work to include global contexts. This subgrant is a prime example of OpenNorth’s local-to-global approach as it directly builds upon a summer project with the Privy Council Office PCO (Government of Canada) to develop a workflow for processing and analysis of qualitative consultation data. The outputs of project available on GitHub are directly informing our work in Ukraine. In addition, this work allows us to create connections between civil servants in Canada and abroad to promote peer learning.
OpenNorth was part of a consortium, led by Evergreen’s Future Cities Canada Program, to create the winning proposal to Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Community Support Program. OpenNorth is the lead technical partner in this partnership with Evergreen. This program will go live in 2019 and bring a whole new level to the organisation’s work on open smart cities. This program represents our first key organisational pillar.
As part of this work, OpenNorth’s new One-to-One (1:1) Advisory Service will officially launch and utilise applied research to provide standardised metrics and assessments to help communities assess where they are in the process of becoming open and smart. Once completed, the organisation can offer tailored guidance for improvement on a community-by-community basis focused on capacity building domains that cover hardware, software, governance, and more, which will allow the program to assess impact of guidance activities.
The Potential for Philanthropic Intervention in Integrated Service Delivery - in a project funded by the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, OpenNorth documented data management practices in the Province of Saskatchewan’s hub model, an integrated service delivery model and investigated the potential for philanthropic intervention into such an ecosystem.
In a pilot project for the Municipal Information Systems Association (Ontario), OpenNorth investigated a number of top ten open datasets and their level of standardisation. The report identified barriers to standardisation based on a survey of MISA members and discussed some of the complications of standardising vocabularies for a given dataset as they may implicate internal administrative operations.
In Montréal, OpenNorth continues its work with the Place des Arts Quartier des spectacles and the Société de développement des entreprises culturelles SODEC (Government of Québec) on multi-stakeholder data governance. In addition, OpenNorth planned and facilitated a one-day workshop for representatives of each of Montréal’s boroughs to discuss data needs for spatial analysis and functionality requirements for a proposed online GIS platform. This event was hosted by the Ville de Montréal Service de la diversité sociale et des sports. OpenNorth also initiated its work with the Laboratoire d’innovation urbain de Montréal LIUM (City of Montréal) to refresh the city’s open data action plan. This work entails extensive internal stakeholder consultation and will help inform an approach to organisational culture around open data at the Ville de Montréal.
OpenNorth remains engaged and committed to Canada’s open data, open government, and civic tech communities. This includes participation in events such as Go Open Data, RightsCon, the Canadian Open Data Summit, and the Future Cities Summit. We continue to engage with the Government of Canada through our membership of the Canadian Multistakeholder Forum on Open Government.
OpenNorth continues to expand its field of interests beyond the open data community to create linkages across urban development domains. Our participation in Canadian events, projects and committees including the CIO Strategy Council, L’Observatoire international sur les impacts sociétaux de l’intelligence artificielle et du numérique, facilitating a regional workshop in Atlantic Canada for Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) on data management practices for homelessness service providers, and the recent Food Convergence Innovation Workshop, demonstrates our determination to connect domains collecting similar related data and improve the use and application of data standards. OpenNorth continues to make connections beyond open data to issues such as food systems and homelessness.
The new year marks an inflection point for OpenNorth. With a bevy of new programs ready to go and nine new staff members being hired, the organisation will one day look back on 2018 as a time to remember. OpenNorth is now solidifying around three core pillars:
Capacity building support to communities and governments on open smart cities
Applied research to synthesise and mobilise knowledge
International programmes to engage in local-to-global knowledge sharing
I believe it marks OpenNorth’s change from a Canadian-based nonprofit firmly embedded in the civic technology movement to one fulfilling a crucial role internationally in building governmental capacity to create the cities of the future.
If you’re interested in joining our global network in 2019, check out our website in the new year and our “Work With Us” page. Do stay in touch.
On behalf of the whole OpenNorth team, I'm looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that the new year will bring.
Jean-Noé Landry Executive Director, OpenNorth December 28, 2018