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Canadian cities report greater efficiency, economic impact from open data

Canadian cities report greater efficiency, economic impact from open data

Today, Public Sector Digest (PSD) released the second report in its 2018 Open Cities Index Report Series entitled “Performance Measurement & Open Data.” After surveying 61 Canadian municipalities, PSD found that local governments are steadily maturing in their open data capacity and competencies. Cities across the country have introduced open data programs in response to demand from their residents, in order to support strategic priorities related to government transparency, or perhaps in genuine recognition of the innovation and efficiency that can emerge from making government data publicly available. As open data programs mature, municipalities are required to report on the impact of these programs – a significant challenge for a new area of service delivery. PSD’s new report reveals that despite these limitations, Canadian cities are reporting increases in government efficiency and transparency as a result of their open data programs, as well as a benefit to economic development and community-based problem solving.  



·       85 percent of municipalities surveyed do not have a mechanism in place to measure the impact of their open data programs

·       31 percent of respondents reported an increase in Freedom of Information Requests (FOI) from 2015 to 2016, while 13 percent report a decrease. For some communities, more robust open data programs have allowed for a reduction in FOIs as end users can access municipal data directly through a portal, saving staff time

·       The vast majority of respondents reported that staff efficiency was significantly enhanced as a result of open data enhancements

·       One municipality reported a one-million-dollar savings from implementing a Transit API (application programming interface, which facilitates data usage for the end user)

·       Respondents also stated that open data has informed and strengthened local businesses and community organizations



PSD asked its 61 OCI survey respondents, “Have you developed a mechanism to measure the impact of your open data program?” Of the 61 survey respondents, 52 (85%) reported “no”, while 9 (15%) reported they had a mechanism in place. Of those that responded “yes”, many had mature open data programs, meaning that they would already be reporting measures to their City Council and their Open Government Committee, in line with an established Open Data Master/Strategic Plan. Given this, one respondent who reported “no”, stated, “[Measurement] has been identified in our report and would be part of a future business case and project charter if City Council supports our request for resources to move our open data initiatives forward.”



In regards to government efficiency, PSD asked, “To what extent has open data had a noticeable impact on increasing government efficiency?” There was an overwhelming response reporting that staff efficiency was significantly enhanced. Specific examples of gained efficiencies included a reduced effort for data prep through easier access to data and reduction in data entry duplication. One respondent reported the advantage of having an open data program is that it ensures that “open” is indeed, open.

Another area of interest to understand the impact of open data on government efficiency is Freedom of Information Requests (FOI). Conceivably, enhancements to an open data portal (including more high quality datasets) could result in a reduction in the number of FOIs made by journalists, academics, and the public, as more data would be readily available for download, bypassing the need for an FOI. PSD asked survey respondents if they reported any reductions in FOI requests between 2015 and 2016, and if so, what was the percentage change? 19 (31%) respondents reported an increase, while 8 (13%) reported a decrease.

Given the mixed results, and the variety of extraneous variables that would impact the number of FOI requests, further study is required to understand if there is a direct correlation between a more mature open data portal and a reduction in requests. For some municipalities, however, there are clear reports of advancements in open data resulting in reductions in FOI requests, and therefore an increase in government efficiency.



When asked whether their open data program has had a noticeable positive impact on the local economy, communities responded with varying answers. Some respondents noted monetary savings, including one municipality reporting a one-million-dollar savings from implementing a Transit API. More broadly, the majority of respondents reported that the rise in the data industry has led to economic and business growth in their community.



“Canadian municipalities have made significant strides with their open data efforts since the launch of the first Open Cities Index study in 2015. For most local governments, open data work was an ad hoc task, performed reactively rather than proactively. As open data becomes a more central priority for municipalities, greater impact will be measured in the areas of efficiency, transparency, economic development, and community problem solving.”

- Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief, Public Sector Digest


For more information contact:

Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief

Public Sector Digest

tsutton [at] publicsectordigest [dot] com

(519) 690-2565 ext. 2210