By The Canadian Press - Friday, March 1, 2013 - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Canadians are getting a chance today to tune in to an interactive…
OTTAWA – Canadians are getting a chance today to tune in to an interactive video chat with Tony Clement.
The web-savvy Conservative MP is hosting the government’s first-ever Google Hangout with a group of tech experts to talk about its so-called “open data” initiative.
The online platform gives Canadians free access to vast amounts of government data.
Clement and experts will discuss how open data can drive innovation, and take questions from online viewers.
As an advocate for social media, Clement maintains an active Twitter presence and has encouraged public servants to use social media in the workplace.
A link to the live-streaming event, which gets underway at 11 a.m. ET, is available at http://www.data.gc.ca/.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Cory’s website was an incredible resource and a wonderful model of what the Internet could mean for the House of Commons. (And Cory also patiently put up with my periodic requests for help.) Hopefully what he created is just the start.
Conservative MP Dan Albas pays tribute.
If you never had a chance to visit this website, it was one of the first that provided a summary of data on politicians including voting records, absences in the house, dissentions, and even commonly used words. All of this information was provided in a transparent and easy to understand manner for members of the public. This type of overview not only provided a convenience for citizens, the information could also be used to help hold Members of Parliament to account. While much of this information can be located on Government websites, it is often much more difficult to locate and at times is presented in a less user-friendly manner.
Fortunately websites like OpenParliament.ca are still in existence that are carrying out this important work however as the shutdown of How’d They Vote has not gotten much media attention I feel it is important to note this unfortunate new development.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 3:12 PM - 0 Comments
The Citizen asked the National Research Council a simple question back in March: What’s this joint study that you and NASA are doing on falling snow? The federal department never agreed to an interview. It sent an email instead, with technical details on equipment but without much information on the nature of the project. It never even explained the study’s topic.
Before sending even that modest response, however, it took a small army of staffers — 11 of them by our count — to decide how to answer, and dozens of emails back and forth to circulate the Citizen’s request, discuss its motivation, develop their response, and “massage” its text.
Democracy Watch wants the international Open Government Partnership to reject the Harper government’s membership.
See previously: Open to question
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 13, 2012 at 12:50 PM - 0 Comments
David Eaves reviews the government’s open data plans.
For many, I think this may be the biggest disappointment is that the government has chosen not to try to update the Access to Information Act. It is true that this is what the Access to Information Commissioners from across the country recommended they do in an open letter (recommendation #2 in their letter). Opening up the act likely has a number of political risks – particularly for a government that has not always been forthcoming documents (the Afghan detainee issue and F-35 contract both come to mind) – however, I again propose that it may be possible to achieve some of the objectives around improved access through the Open Government Directive.
Access to information was the focus of a submission made by the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association during the consultation process. Democracy Watch is unimpressed. Andrea Di Maio is unsatisfied.
Another correspondent points me to the demise of the Community Access Program, which could exclude some from taking part in whatever bounty of data is to come.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 12:17 PM - 0 Comments
Tony Clement has unveiled the Harper government’s Action Plan on Open Government.
Canada’s commitment to open government is part of the federal government’s efforts to foster greater openness and accountability, to provide Canadians with more opportunities to learn about and participate in government, to drive innovation and economic opportunities for all Canadians and, at the same time, create a more cost effective, efficient and responsive government.
The 12 commitments that the Harper government is now making are detailed here.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 3:52 PM - 3 Comments
The same minister who helped use the “border infrastructure fund” to build gazebos and public toilets in his riding and left no official paper trail in doing so is also the government’s most prominent champion of open government policies.
Mr. Clement said by sharing the information that government uses to make decisions, citizens can become more informed and engaged on public policy issues. “You can get into this whole world of crowd-sourcing where rather than it just [being] cabinet committees or caucuses deciding policy, you could get the public that are engaged in a particular issue to help come up with options or even help make decisions,” he said. “That to me is the ultimate future of open government.”
Part of the Harper government’s open data agenda will be a central database of access-to-information requests and releases, which, as the Globe notes, sounds something like the database the Harper government eliminated three years ago.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 8:50 AM - 3 Comments
Brian Brown considers the future of governance.
This “localist” trend is beginning to reshape American politics as well. Among its other flaws, the rational planning model was based on the mistaken notion that science could be substituted for the practical knowledge of ordinary citizens. But the social sciences have simply never come close to approaching the physical sciences in their explanatory or predictive power. They cannot grasp or manage some of the most basic variables in public policy, including the human need for ownership over our stake in society — that is, the needs for belonging and participation. As a 2009 report for the James Irvine Foundation puts it, people “want the opportunity to be more than passive audience members whose social activism is limited to writing a check.” And as Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone (2000), has documented, communities whose citizens feel a sense of local empowerment report (among other things) better local government, less crime, and faster economic growth. Many citizens are more inclined to participate even in the most basic act of civic life — voting — when a particular issue seems to directly affect them, and they are convinced they can affect it back.
By Alex Derry - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 4:56 PM - 11 Comments
Aaron Swartz’s arrest reveals the limits of open access ‘hacktivism’
Aaron Swartz was arrested last week after allegedly breaking into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s computer network to play Robin Hood—stealing academic journals from the ivory tower and making them available for free online. The 24-year-old online activist and then-fellow at Harvard now stands accused of fraud. The prosecution, led by U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen M. Ortiz, alleges that between September 24, 2010 and January 6, 2011, Swartz repeatedly broke into M.I.T.’s restricted computer wiring closet, accessed the network using an anonymous email address (at one time shielding his face with a bicycle helmet to hide his identity from security), and illegally hacked his way into the school’s JSTOR account to download 4.8 million articles. At one point near the end of his heist, according to the indictment, Swartz fled M.I.T. security officials attempting to question him.
Swartz, an early contributor to reddit and the co-founder of Demand Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization specializing in online campaigns for progressive causes, including protecting internet freedom and protesting the Patriot Act, may have disclosed a possible motivation behind his alleged actions three years ago. In his “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto,” released in 2008, he rallied against what he saw as the private monopoly of public culture:
“We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks.”
Open access ‘hacktivists’ like Swartz argue that academic journals constitute open data that should be freely available for the benefit of public knowledge. As Matt Blaze, a computer scientist at Princeton University, puts it, expecting authors to release their intellectual property to copyright is “quaintly out of touch with the needs of researchers and academics who no longer expect the delay and expense of seeking out printed copies of far flung documents.” The New York Times even lauded Swartz for a similar hack in 2009, when he and “a small group of dedicated open-government activists teamed up to push the court records system into the 21st century,” by downloading and releasing to the public over 19 million pages of court documents from the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system, described as “cumbersome, arcane and not free.” While government officials were beside themselves, Swartz and his crew had broken no laws.
Matt Ingram of Gigaom.com finds Swartz’s recent indictment disturbing, and argues that what the online activist did was no worse than when Mark Zuckerberg downloaded photos from Harvard’s network to create the beta version of Facebook. “It’s certainly nowhere near the kind of espionage that the government is alleging occurred in the case of WikiLeaks and the diplomatic cables it published, or the hacking that groups such as Anonymous and Lulzsec are accused of being involved in. What could possibly [be] gained by going after a young programmer for trying to liberate academic research from a library?” In a statement, Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal said that Swartz’s indictment was “like trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library.”
But in reading the indictment, “liberating academic research” is not the charge he is facing. The four counts leveled against Swartz are for wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer. Timothy B. Lee of Forbes.com also notes that M.I.T. students’ access to JSTOR was cut off for several days following the Mission Impossible-inspired data breach, no doubt providing students much-needed fodder for the old “hacker ate my homework” excuse. Like the comedian who threw a pie at Rupert Murdoch and succeeded only in victimizing a man who was doing just fine making himself look bad, such actions make JSTOR “look like an injured, even magnanimous, party and gives them an excuse to make their policies more restrictive.”
Swartz wasn’t arrested for reading under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime. He faces allegations of deliberately breaking into someone else’s bedroom and re-wiring the lighting completely before even getting under the covers, all while wearing a mask. While the purpose of distributing JSTOR’s content for free on file-sharing sites may seem bizarre grounds for federal charges, fraud and trespassing aren’t.
Whether Swartz should be facing felony counts that could bring him up to 35 years in prison for actions, which while perhaps brazen and illegal, harmed no one, is another question altogether—JSTOR is not pursuing legal action against him and say they have no interest in doing so because the articles have been re-secured (although plenty of documents have already appeared online). However misguided such methods may be, it seems unfair to punish someone so severely for wanting to help the general public access a science journal, which would normally be available only to an elite group of graduate students.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 14, 2011 at 11:57 AM - 0 Comments
David Eaves commends the launch of CIDA’s new open data site.
The site is now live and has a healthy amount of data on it. It is a solid start to what I hope will become a robust site. I’m a big believer - and supporter of the excellent advocacy efforts of the good people at Engineers Without Borders – that the open data portal would be greatly enhanced if CIDA started publishing its data in compliance with the emerging international standard of the International Aid Transparency Initiative as these 20 leading countries and organizations have.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 11:45 AM - 87 Comments
Liberals will adopt a new approach to information, issuing government-wide direction that the default position for all departments and agencies will be to release information to the public, both proactively and responsively … all Access to Information requests and responses will be posted online … a searchable, online database for grants, contributions and contracts … restore the mandatory long form census … procedural limitations on the prime minister’s power to prorogue … all Canadians will be able to participate in People’s Question Period, where the Prime Minister and Ministers will respond directly to unscripted, user-generated questions online … a new Standing Committee on National Security … regular face-to-face meetings of all party leaders … direct Elections Canada to develop an online voting option.
The Liberals also commit to pursuing Question Period reforms similar to those proposed by Michael Chong. And elsewhere, under deficit reduction, the Liberals suggest a smaller cabinet.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 18, 2011 at 12:47 PM - 7 Comments
The government may revise the licence by removing the disrepute term, but I think a larger issue will remain … if licences could talk, this one would say “this is our data and here is how we the government will allow you the public to use it.” But open government means accepting that government data is the public’s data and that the government’s obligation is not to control it, but to make it as freely and unconditionally available to the public as reasonably possible. The right approach in addressing concerns over the new Canada open data portal is not to make a small change in the licence terms by dropping the disrepute provision. It is to drop the current licence altogether, instead adopting a simplified, open licence that tells Canadians it is their data and (subject to reasonable attribution requirements) they are free to access, use, and reuse it without restrictions.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 11:33 PM - 10 Comments
A note from Stockwell Day’s office, received just now in regards to the “disrepute” clause cited here.
It was never our intent to limit freedom of expression, which is a Charter right. That clause is being removed from the licence.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 3:43 PM - 18 Comments
David Eaves lauds the creation of a new open data portal, but questions the fine print (which includes a clause that users ”shall not use the data made available through the GC Open Data Portal in any way which, in the opinion of Canada, may bring disrepute to or prejudice the reputation of Canada”).
The license on data.gc.ca is deeply, deeply flawed. Some might go so far as to say that the license does not make it data open at all – a critique that I think is fair. I would say this: presently the open data license on data.gc.ca effectively kills any possible business innovation, and severally limits the use in non-profit realms.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 1:51 PM - 25 Comments
The Open Data Portal is a one-stop shop for federal Government data, providing data that can be downloaded free of charge. The portal facilitates access to datasets available on websites to citizens, researchers, voluntary organizations and the private sector. Application developers can reuse and mashup the data from the portal for commercial purposes, research, or community services to benefit all Canadians in a variety of ways.
This pilot portal will initially bring together more than 260,000 datasets from the following ten participating departments available to all Canadians: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Citizenship and Immigration Canada; Environment Canada; Department of Finance Canada; Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Library and Archives Canada; Natural Resources Canada; Statistics Canada; Transport Canada; and the Treasury Board Secretariat.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 12:36 PM - 5 Comments
Each political party must now ask itself what it must do in order to renew not only Parliament but itself in the process. While progressive governments around the world have deployed digital technology to advance transparency and unshackle information to fuel knowledge and innovation, Canada has been held in check by the most secretive government in its history. It remains to be seen whether the technological revolution that is succeeding in renewing government representation throughout the Middle East and Africa will actually unfold in Canada, where research announced yesterday stated that we spend more time on the Internet than any other nation.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 12:01 PM - 2 Comments
David Eaves writes to the Parliamentary committee studying open data.
There is one arena where politicians need not wait on the government to make plans: Parliament itself. Over the past year, while in conversations with the Parliamentary IT staff as well as the Speaker of the House, I have worked to have Parliament make more data about its own operations open. Starting in January, the Parliamentary website will begin releasing the Hansard in XML – this will make it much easier for software developers like the creators of Openparliament.ca as and howdtheyvote.ca to run their sites and for students, researchers and reporters to search and analyze our country’s most important public discussions. In short, by making the Hansard more accessible the Speaker and his IT staff are making parliament more accessible. But this is only the beginning of what parliamentarians could do to make for a truly Open Parliament. The House and Senate’s schedules and agendas, along with committee calendars should all be open. So to should both chambers seating arrangement. Member’s photos and bios should be shared with an unrestricted license as should the videos of parliament.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 11:58 AM - 36 Comments
Taylor Owen considers how Wikileaks fits into the open data discussion.
By highlighting a core tension in the open data discussion, however, Wikileaks puts much of this progress in jeopardy. While few would argue that leaked data is open data, or that all data should be open, the case of Wikileaks reminds us that data exists on a continuum from highly classified to open. In certain policy areas, we need to think carefully about who we want making the final decision over secrecy—the governments that we elect, or individuals over whom we have no control. No issue better exemplifies this dilemma than national security data.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 26, 2010 at 9:44 AM - 13 Comments
Alex Himelfarb suggests we can’t export democracy if our own democracy is lacking.
This is partly about electoral reform, as hard as that has proved, and partly about institutional reform and we have seen some of the first modest stirrings across partisan lines. It is partly about new tools, new technologies that create new possibilities for engagement, open government and networks of state and non-state actors. It is also about greater civic and social equality without which democracy cannot flourish. And it is about leadership across all sectors. If we are looking for the next big national project, why not revitalising our democracy. What could be more important – and more difficult? Export democracy? Maybe. Renew our own democracy? For sure.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 10:05 AM - 10 Comments
David Eaves lauds David Cameron’s new commitment to transparent accounting.
After a brief video announcement from Prime Minister David Cameron about the importance of the event, Francis Maude, Minister of the Cabinet Office, and Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, announced that henceforth the spending data for every British ministry on anything over £25,000 (about $40,000) would be available for anyone in the world to download…
For the British Conservative Party, this is a strategic move. Faced with a massive deficit, the government is enlisting the help of all Britons to identify any waste. More importantly, however, they see releasing data as a means by which to control government spending. Indeed, Mr. Maude argues: “When you are forced to account for the money you spend, you spend it more wisely. We believe that publishing this data will lead to better decision-making in government and will ultimately help us save money.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 15, 2010 at 1:39 PM - 1 Comment
David Eaves launches Emitter.ca, an online tool that uses federal government data to map pollution sources in your neighbourhood.
Will Emitter change the world? It’s hard to imagine. But hopefully it is a powerful example of what can happen when governments make their data open. That people will take that data and make it accessible in new and engaging ways.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 12:51 PM - 0 Comments
The Liberals have now set out their open government agenda, which would, in addition to restoring the long-form census, include as follows.
Make as many government datasets as possible available to the public online free of charge at opendata.gc.ca in an open and searchable format, starting with Statistics Canada data, including data from the long-form census; Post all Access to Information requests, responses, and response times online at accesstoinformation.gc.ca; and Make information on government grants, contributions and contracts available through a searchable, online database at accountablespending.gc.ca.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 2:31 PM - 0 Comments
Liberal critic Carolyn Bennett has apparently set off on a series of “democratic renewal” consultations.
The workbook that is provided to participants is dominated by question marks, but everything from the senate to electoral reform to open data appears to be on the proverbial table.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 17, 2010 at 4:14 PM - 0 Comments
The magazine’s Rethink issue—Warning: sideways design may blow your mind—includes this story on the open data and open government movements. The ideas discussed there may or may not change everything.
For now, while everyone else is getting excited about the Twitter and the blogs (and maybe someday a new TV network featuring that guy who’s already on radio and that other guy who likes to shout about stuff), punditsguide.ca, threehundredeight.com, openparliament.ca, howdtheyvote.ca, disclosed.ca and governmentexpenses.ca could be the six most important (and, in a way, exciting) contributions to the political process, and the coverage and scrutiny of same, to appear in recent years.
And beyond those projects is what’s going on, or could be going on, within and around government. Continue…