The analysis has demonstrated how OD can provide social, economic and environmental benefits to society. Several challenges surrounding the dissemination of OD are still preventing these benefits from being achieved. This section provides recommendations for obtaining further benefits with the dissemination of OD.
The five recommendations outlined in this section stem from the analyses, with the objective of achieving the most benefits to society.
Availability of Data
Stronger action is needed by senior officials to prevent issues with compliancy or else availability of datasets will suffer from economic cutbacks. GC departments and agencies need to understand that they are obligated to publish datasets and OD practices need to be part of their IM practices. Legislation surrounding OD along with guidelines and tools needs to be in place to help departments and agencies manage PSI and publish OD.
Recommendation #1: The GC needs to launch the Directive on Open Government to help departments and agencies publish more datasets. As part of the requirement of the directive, there must be standard tools and guidelines such as criteria for publishing that will help departments and agencies identify and publish OD.
In addition, the directive should not allow departments and agencies to pick and choose the data that will be published. Instead, the directive must mandate them to publish all data that meets the criteria for publishing openly. This must also include data from access to information requests and public web sites.
Similar to the Directive on Recordkeeping, the new Directive on Open Government must also contain deadlines and consequences for not meeting requirements. To mitigate the issue of compliancy, requirements of the directive must be key objectives within the performance appraisals for all Information Management Senior Officers (IMSO) and Chief Information Officers (CIO) from each department and agencies.
Furthermore, a communication campaign promoting the importance of the directive should be led by the highest level of senior officials within the GC. Departments and agencies need to understand the urgency and benefits that can be obtained from publishing OD. With effective communication and a proper mandate, departments and agencies will have the ability to achieve compliance and make more data openly available.
Recommendation #2: The GC should set a concrete goal to convert inert data available on their websites into a dynamic open format within the next year. This includes data that is available on public websites from all departments and agencies. If information is publicly available on government websites then it must also be available openly. Data that is only available on physical disks or in a printed format must be converted.
A large amount of OD users are scraping public websites without appropriate licenses. This is an obvious indication that information published on public websites is both needed by OD users and currently unavailable in open format. With a growing number of users wanting to use OD in subsequent projects and the benefits that can be achieved from making more data available, this is a cost-effective approach for the GC to publish data that users are requesting. In addition, this would help support the academic community which are the biggest users of OD and would improve transparency with advocacy and special interest groups which lobby governments for more data to be published.
There are several initiatives from other jurisdictions that could be leveraged to help implement standards, guidelines, and lessons learned from other government departments.
Recommendation #3: The GC needs to identify guidelines and standards for the publishing of OD. A lack of consistency of common formats across departments was identified as an issue for combining datasets which was caused by the lack of defined standards and procedures. This lack of standards only increases costs and time delays for groups needing to aggregate datasets. Additionally, since members of the academic community are the biggest users of macro data available from the GC, the lack of standards is obstructing future innovation from research and development within Canada.
The GC needs to work in collaboration with other jurisdictions to establish standards for metadata and geographic information. Furthermore, tools and procedures are required to help departments and agencies to manage OD. Existing work within other departments like Statistics Canada and Natural Resources Canada could be leveraged for the process of identifying potential standards for publishing geospatial datasets. In addition, the GC should participate in international initiatives for the development of standards and best practices. The European Commission is working on an initiative for a common standard, as is the Open Data Institute in the UK. Providing common standards will help aggregated data and gain added benefits from OD.
The GC needs to provide mechanisms that will allow information to flow to all stakeholders. External stakeholders should be seen as partners in the effort to publish OD.
Recommendation #4: The GC needs to collaborate with external stakeholders and all departments and agencies. TBS needs to be the catalyst for establishing a degree of interaction for the continuous flow of information. Provide the ability to change the patterns for interaction among existing and new stakeholders. This interaction requires that data reaches its intended audience and that mechanisms are in place to allow users to contribute. This two-directional flow will allow for transparency from the benefit of public accountability.
The first step of the circular process could be to leverage external stakeholders to validate the need for new datasets. A series of stakeholders that are subject matter experts could be identified to provide feedback. This would give valuable insight into the value of the datasets and enhance the quality of OD published by the GC with relatively no cost.
Furthermore, an advisory board needs to be created to allow stakeholders to collaborate with the publication of OD. External parties should be seen as partners in the effort to publish OD; the skills and efforts for in depth analysis that they offer could help governments reduce internal costs for identifying and publishing OD. External participation will also help create a sense of urgency for OD and remove complacency. In addition, this level of collaboration with external stakeholders would allow for the interaction needed for public accountability. Information will reach targeted audiences, provide a mechanism to react, and allow GC to respond.
Recommendation #5: Changes within GC departments and agencies need to include a lean operational process for publishing OD. An interdisciplinary team within each organization will need to be identified and implemented which will use a rapid and iterative approach to publishing OD. The team will work with internal divisions to identify efficiencies and develop processes for publishing needed data in days and weeks instead of months and years. It will be important for organizations to identify key individuals with the experience and knowledge to propel lean operational changes. In addition, the team will help implement internal procedures and best practices that will meet legislative obligations for publishing OD.