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Canada ranks No. 2 in global open data index
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Canada ranks No. 2 in global open data index 

But tap yourself in the back Canada. When it comes to open data, Canada ranks pretty much way up there, according the latest global snapshot of how governments are using open data for accountability, innovation and social impact.

According to the fourth edition of the Open Data Barometerof the World Wide Web Foundation, an organization founded by web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Canada is number two globally in making sure its citizens have open access to government held data.

(Access the full report here)

Canada, which garnered a score of 90 out of 100 is closely followed by France, which got a score of 85. This year’s top open data country is the United Kingdom which got a score of 100.

The United States is fourth (82) and Korea is fifth (81).

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Open data is data that is available for everyone to use and reuse, and allows citizens to hold governments to account for the decisions they take and the money they spend, according to the World Wide Web Foundation.

The Open Data Barometer covered 115 countries. The study based is findings on three kinds of data:

  • A peer reviewed expert survey carried out between May and September 2016 with a range of questions about open data contexts, policy, implementation and impacts and a detailed assessment completed for 15 kinds of data in each country, which touched on issues of data availability, format, license, timeliness and discoverability.
  • A government self-assessment through a simplified version of the survey carried out between May and July 2016 with the same range of context, implementation and impact questions, provided an additional source of information.
  • Secondary data selected to complement our expert survey data. This is used in the readiness section of the Barometer, and is taken from the World Economic Forum, World Bank, United Nations e-Government Survey and Freedom House.

“Political will has been translated into strong legal and policy foundations, which has achieved steady progress in Barometer rankings,” The report said of Canada. “Canada is 1 of 4 countries that has fully open spending data – a key dataset for accountability that continuously fails to be made open.”

Canada is also the only country that has land ownership data fully open (only available at the sub-national level), according to the report.

Restrictive data licenses

However, “restrictive licensing of several datasets is a primary reason Canada has not overtaken the UK’s longstanding leadership position in the ranking,” the report said.

The report argues that leaders must focus on opening up the data that matters most: data that can help solve people’s most pressing problems — from transport to education to healthcare.

“Citizens have a right to access the data their taxes pay for, and use it to engage in public decisions and improve their lives. Governments need to stop dragging their feet and make government data open by default,” said Carlos Iglesias, senior researcher for the study. “It’s frustrating to see virtually no improvement since last year, and some early leaders turn their backs on the open agenda. “

He said many governments can improve their scores if they carried out a few “relatively simple steps.”

“For instance, adding open licences to existing datasets would double the number of open dataset,” said Iglesias.

Government must make sure these benefits are for everyone, through dedicated efforts to involve marginalised groups and ensure they can take advantage of the data available, the report said.

However, the report found that data on key accountability metrics such as government spending, public contracts, company ownership and land ownership “are among the least open and often poor quality.”

Government spending data — which helps people track where their taxes go — is open in just three per cent of countries, according to the findings.

Backsliders

The study found that early open data leaders are stalling, even backsliding in their delivery of open data.

For instance, the scores of high-ranking Nordic countries and the United States have fallen this year, and even the UK, a traditional open data leader, “has seen worrying changes in key policies.”

Globally, the study found, fewer than one in 10 datasets studied are fully open — unchanged from last year. This indicates that most countries are failing to move forward on providing their citizens vital public information.

Open data initiatives can struggle when country leaders that back the initiative fail to advance reforms that encourage openness or where political policies are not developed into proper data management approaches.

“This is even an issue in countries which currently rank highly on the Barometer, such as the USA and the UK. The new US administration has already removed certain key datasets from Web sites, leading to concerns about the future of open government data in the USA,” the report said. “Meanwhile, the UK appears to be softening some of its policy commitments through a new ‘open government data when appropriate’ default policy.”

Key recommendations

Based on the Barometer findings, the Web Foundation calls for the following actions by governments:

  • Government data must be open by default
  • Governments must integrate open data across all agencies and departments
  • Governments must adopt the Open Data Charter to ensure open data practices are embedded beyond political mandates
  • Governments must consult citizens and intermediaries when prioritising which open data to publish first
  • Governments must invest in using open data to improve the lives of marginalised groups

“The case for open data is clear. Citizens have a right to access the data their taxes pay for, and use it to engage in public decisions and improve their lives,” said Craig Fagan, Web Foundation policy director. “Governments need to stop dragging their feet and make government data open by default.”

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