The growth of open data initiatives across Canada represents a much larger trend towards more open, transparent, and accountable government. While each jurisdiction is progressing at its own pace, there is a palpable national movement underway in the development and advancement of open data programs. At the municipal level, change often comes from above – either mandated by provincial or federal legislation or incentivized by grant funding.
With open data, local governments across Canada are forging ahead with new and expanded initiatives, driven not by regulation, but by a commitment to increased transparency, economic development potential, and the opportunity to enhance the delivery of government services. With limited (or non-existent) open data budgets, municipalities are forming new partnerships and uncovering existing in-house talents and resources in order to build their open data capacity.
The 2016 Open Cities Index
The 2016 Open Cities Index results confirm that Canada’s municipalities are on the right track to open data maturity. Now in its second year, the Open Cities Index launched in 2015 as Canada’s first study to benchmark municipal open data initiatives across the country. The first edition of the Open Cities Index included 34 of Canada’s largest municipalities, covering 41 percent of Canada’s total population. This year, the Open Cities Index has grown to include 68 municipalities, representing 61 percent of the Canadian population, providing a richer analysis of the state of municipal open data initiatives across the country.
These 68 communities are located in 9 of Canada's 13 provinces and territories and include a range in population that stretches from a town of 7,662 people to a metropolis of 2.615 million residents. The over-representation of Ontario municipalities in the 2016 Index may reflect momentum across Ontario's local governments in launching open government initiatives in line with their provincial counterpart. The 2016 Index features its first participant from a Canadian territory - Whitehorse - and has increased participation from Quebec, with 4 municipalities included, up from 1 in 2015. 10 regional/upper-tier municipalities participated in the 2016 Index, allowing for a more detailed analysis of results across different types of local governments.
In establishing the Open Cities Index, PSD first reviewed all relevant open data literature including studies from across Europe and North America. A methodology for the Index was then developed by applying elements of the following initiatives to the local government context in Canada: The Open Data Barometer created by the World Wide Web Foundation, POPSIS (Pricing of Public Sector Information Study) conducted by the European Commission, McKinsey Global Institute’s Open Data Study, and OKFN’s Open Data Census. The full 2016 Open Cities Index methodology can be viewed here.
Ultimately, the Open Cities Index serves as a guide for cities looking to initiate or advance their open data programs. Until now, Canada's municipalities have lacked a reference point for what types of data to make available to the public, in what format, and at what frequency. The Open Cities Index measures the readiness, implementation, and impact of the participating cities’ open data initiatives:
- Readiness: To what extent is the municipality ready/capable of fostering positive outcomes through its open data initiative?
- Implementation: To what extent has the city fulfilled its open data goals and ultimately, what data has it posted online?
- Impact: To what extent has the posted data been used, what benefits has the city accrued as a result of its open data program, and to what extent is the city capable of measuring the impact?
The implementation section of the Index scores a municipality against the availability of 32 identified datasets, with 11 variables assessing the quality of the data, including whether the data is machine readable, available for free, and up to date.
The 2016 Top 20 Open Cities
Despite significant resource limitations, municipalities across Canada are launching open data initiatives in order to contribute to strategic goals of enhancing transparency, but also to create new efficiencies in the delivery of government services and quite possibly support the generation of new local businesses. The 2015 Top 10 list was expanded to a Top 20 list this year in order to highlight more of Canada’s leading open data communities. This year's Top 20 cities, although varying greatly in their size, geography, and open data maturity, have all made a strong commitment to advancing their open data initiatives.
The 2016 Top 20 Scores (cities could earn a maximum score of 150)
From Victoria, British Columbia to Halifax, Nova Scotia, the 2016 Top 20 cities stretch from coast to coast, and represent communities of varying sizes and economic compositions. PSD is pleased to announce, in partnership with Canada’s Open Data Exchange (ODX), that the City of Edmonton has once again claimed the top spot in the Open Cities Index. For the second year in a row, the City of Edmonton has been named Canada’s most open city, with the City of Toronto retaining its second place ranking. Montréal has climbed 10 positions to 3rd in 2016, rounding out the top three. Notably, the 2016 Top 20 list includes five municipalities brand new to the Index. The City of Mississauga has earned the “Most Improved” recognition for jumping 25 spots from 2015 landing in 15th place this year. Moving up 3 positions to 6th place in the 2016 Index, Strathcona County, Alberta receives the "Small City, Big Impact" award for earning the highest position in this year's ranking among cities with a population under 100,000.
Top 20 Cities - Change in Rank and Category Scores
Edmonton received a score of 98% overall for its open data program, with very strong performances in the Readiness and Impact categories of the study. Providing open data training for the community, convening regular open data hackathons, and adopting an official Open Data Plan and Open Data Policy are just some of the ways Edmonton is building open data capacity within its organization and in the broader community. Under the Implementation category, Edmonton has published online, up-to-date, freely available, machine-readable, automated datasets that are linked to APIs under almost all 32 categories of datasets included in the Open Cities Index. Edmonton has also made advancements to better ascertain the impact of its open data initiative via an array of tools and strategies, including the use of an Impact Map, which tracks what users are doing with their published data, and through media tracking, measuring the percentage of media coverage that is favourable.
Edmonton's Open Data Portal
With the second highest score in the Implementation category (80%), the City of Toronto continues to be a national leader in the publication of diverse high-quality datasets. Toronto’s open data portal includes highly sought after datasets, like restaurant inspection data (while most other municipalities across Canada lack access to restaurant inspection information as it is collected by another level of government – open data partnerships are required in order to share this data.) Toronto has also made headway with refining the measurement of its open data initiative. The City’s Open Government Committee has developed performance measures and indicators to track its Open Government program with a particular focus on Open Data, Open Engagement, Open Information and Open Culture.
Likewise, the City of Montréal is working with a local university to develop an impact assessment framework for its open data initiative. Montréal is also participating in a start-up accelerator, supporting a number of burgeoning businesses seeking to make use of the City’s open data. These targeted efforts have helped push Montréal into second place under both the Impact and Readiness sections of the Open Cities Index (with 90% and 86% respectively).
“The municipalities represented in this year’s Open Cities Index Top 20 are trailblazers in the open data movement. Whether they are motivated by a commitment to increased transparency, the local economic development potential of open data, or the opportunity to enhance the delivery of government services to residents, these twenty communities are working through open data challenges that will become the best practices of tomorrow.”
- Tyler Sutton, Editor, Public Sector Digest
National Trends: Building Open Data Capacity in CANADA
Overall, there is a noticeable improvement in the engagement and commitment to open data across municipalities of all sizes. In 2015, an average of 67 datasets were published by our participating municipalities, rising to an average of 79 datasets per municipality in 2016. This year’s Top 20 includes five municipalities brand new to the Open Cities Index, indicating a swell of interest in benchmarking open data initiatives in order to track progress and learn from peers.
Despite the low national average of 24 percent in the Implementation category of the Index, a stronger showing of 34 percent in the Readiness category indicates that Canada’s municipalities are starting to put the tools and resources in place that will allow for more robust implementation of open data in the near future. Support from national and provincial governments in terms of building municipal open data capacity will only accelerate this process. A forthcoming PSD report will provide an in-depth analysis of the types of datasets being published by Canada's municipalities, with a close look at those datasets being missed by local governments. PSD will also be working with regional and county governments to study the prevalence of datasets published uniquely by upper-tier municipalities.
The national average score of 35 percent in the Impact category of the Index indicates that although there is significant work to be done, municipalities are starting to put resources behind the improvement of performance measurement in regards to their open data initiatives. Through the adoption of open data plans and policies, sometimes as part of a larger open government plan, municipalities are making strides in identifying strategic goals and objectives, tied to measurable indicators, for their open data initiatives. As municipalities continue to improve their performance measurement efforts, providing a greater understanding of the impact of their open data work, they will be able to tweak their programs and reallocate resources in order to strengthen impact in their organization and in the community.
Governments have a responsibility to be transparent, and with more resources, they will be able to publish more data in a format that supports the use of open data. However, in order to make use of open data to better understand community problems, attempt to solve those problems, and create new tools and businesses, collaboration is required across all sectors. Municipalities, as the level of government closest to the people, can act as a facilitator for collaboration. It will be up to all community stakeholders to support their municipal government in their open data efforts, and join them at the strategic planning table to map out enhanced community collaboration in the open data sphere.
“Cities are in the best position to unlock the value of open data. Open data constitutes the vital signs of a city. As such, it can be used to assess the health of the city. Moreover, it can be used by the private sector – including start-ups and SME’s – to formulate solutions to problems and challenges that the city is facing. And, open data can be used to assess the effectiveness of the solution. The Open Cities Index plays an important role in helping cities develop a framework for their open data initiatives with a focus on open data usage in support of the creation of products and services that complete the value exchange.”
- Dr. Kevin Tuer, Managing Director of Canada's Open Data Exchange
Collaboration and Continued Learning
PSD is committed to participating in the advancement of open data capacity at the municipal level. As we continue to expand the Open Cities Index program, we invite you to share with us your successes and challenges in open data, and follow along as we publish new quarterly reports with in-depth analyses of municipal open data trends. Contribute to the conversation on social media using the hashtag #OCI2016 and connect with us on Twitter and Instagram using @PSDintelligence.
If your municipality did not participate in the 2016 Open Cities Index, contact us to complete the survey and start benchmarking your open data progress.
In order to continue assisting municipalities with the development of open data capacity, PSD has launched a new Open Cities Index membership program. Our OCI members form a national cohort of municipal open data practitioners, working together to develop best practices, share insights, and build collective capacity. OCI members participate in a quarterly virtual roundtable series, facilitated by PSD and our partners ODX, with targeted topics related to challenges in municipal open data implementation. Following each session, members receive a detailed PSD Report providing a synopsis of the discussion and supplementary resources prepared by PSD’s research group.
Premium OCI members gain access to PSD's advanced municipal open data benchmarking tool, developed to assist Canada's local governments with performance measurement and process improvement. Premium members use the web-based tool to track their open data progress, with the ability to update their OCI survey results on a quarterly basis. With full report generation and trend analysis capabilities, municipal open data leads can provide their staff, council, and community with regular insightful updates on their open data initiatives.
Open Cities Index Benchmarking Tool
OCI Membership rates are based on the size of municipality, allowing for the smallest communities to participate. We invite your municipality to join us as we work together to build open data capacity across Canada. Please contact us to learn more.
ABOUT PUBLIC SECTOR DIGEST
The Public Sector Digest is a monthly digital and quarterly print publication written to advance the managerial capacity of Canada’s public sector. PSD’s research activities and content, including articles, case studies, webinars, and white papers, focus exclusively on topics pertinent to current and future executives across all government levels and disciplines. Its network of researchers and authors spans 20 countries, across six continents, and comprises highly accomplished specialists and academics from hundreds of world-class organizations and government agencies.
ABOUT CANADA’S OPEN DATA EXCHANGE
ODX is a public-private-academic partnership based in Waterloo Region serving all of Canada. The initiative presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs to multi-national companies to be a global leader in the commercialization of open data. Founding partners include University of Waterloo, D2L (Desire2Learn), CDMN (Canadian Digital Media Network), OpenText and Communitech— with funds matched by the Government of Canada.