Search form

Become a Member Today Sign Up

Conference Review

Go Open Data Conference Review 2017

Go Open Data Conference – GOOD17


May 5-6 2017

London, Ontario

Theme: GOOD17 and Canada at 150

For the complete Conference Review, please consult the PDF version here.


2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, and festivities are being held right across the country all year long. With the theme of “Canada at 150”, GOOD17 looked at how far we’ve come, and the future that lies ahead. This year’s conference included diverse voices from across the province and country—including many that haven’t always been amplified in conversations around open government and open data.


This Conference Review, prepared by the research team at Public Sector Digest, provides a synopsis of most of the plenaries and breakout sessions that occurred at GOOD17. We encourage you to share this resource with your colleagues as a tool to build awareness and capacity around open data partnerships and programs across Canada. If you were able to attend GOOD17, it’s not too late to reflect on the conference discussions and add your insights to this review. Contact us at info [at] publicsectordigest [dot] com () to share your thoughts on the ideas presented at Go Open Data!






Speaking at the Wolf Performance Hall at the London Public Library, Hon. Liz Sandals MPP opened the 2017 GO Open Data Conference by referencing Ontario’s commitment to open data and open governance. Minister Sandals spoke about the province being amongst the first to adopt the international open data charter, which allows for access to a group of likeminded countries and organizations that share best practices and discuss challenges related to open data. There have already been 570 data sets opened, which is helping Ontario to lead in being the most transparent and accountable government in Canada. Further, Minister Sandals explained the benefits of open data, most notably how it spurs innovation and economic growth, as well as informs evidence-based policy decisions due to more access to reliable data. 


“Where you don’t have privacy considerations, data should be open by default.”

Hon. Liz Sandals MPP, President of the Treasury Board   





As moderator of the Keynote Speakers Panel, Councillor Maureen Cassidy introduced both Tracy Antone and Tracey Lauriault of the Chiefs of Ontario and Carleton University respectively as the first panel of the day. Ms. Antone is the Health Director for the Chiefs of Ontario, and provided an overview of the state of First Nations health in the province. She spoke of the importance of open data sovereignty, remarking that First Nations must have their own data and be able to curate their cultural information as they choose.

As the second speaker, Ms. Tracey Lauriault urged the audience to think about open data differently – specifically how it interacts with cities and with government, how open data will look as part of the ‘Internet of Things,’ and to think critically about how we collect and leverage these databases of information.





Adam Caplan moderated the first panel discussion of the day, “Building the Canada We Envision,” where the panelists brought various perspectives on what will be important for Canada’s future.

Merlin Chatwin, a public sector consultant, focused on how open data could help to inform social policy.  He explained that data is mainly driven by privilege, and there is an inherent divide between classes that impacts whose voices are heard. Chatwin believes that we need to engage those who are directly involved in the issues, which will lead to better overall data and social understanding.

The next speaker, Ashleigh Weeden, Communications Manager with Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology Inc. (SWIFT), explained that the future of Canada needs to focus on creating vibrant rural communities, as they fuel our economies. She emphasized that we cannot pick one project and put all of our money into it, we need to invest long term in building a sustainable ecosystem that connects urban and rural centers. The final panelist Sean Galloway, who is the Manager of Urban Design and GIS for the City of London, spoke to the ways that change will impact areas of our current systems. If we are going to improve we need to be more collaborative and see things as pieces to the same puzzle.    





Moderatedby Suze Morrison, the “Celebrating Open Data in Canada” panel featured open data leaders from markedly different organizations across Canada, and each commented on the progress of open data across the country. Kevin Tuer from Open Data Exchange (ODX), an organization aiming to bridge the divide between those that have data and those who seek it, first described the initial challenges of bringing these two parties together. However, as an intermediary in these discussions, his organization has witnessed a development in the discussion of open data, from conversations simply focusing on open government and transparency, to an appetite to understand and extract the value of this data. A senior developer at CBC News, William Wolfe-Wylie commented on the increasing role and interest open data plays when producing news stories. Dr. Karen Louise Smith, assistant professor at Brock University, who currently explores the tension between openness and privacy and citizen participation in open data, argued that more varied configurations of engagement between government and citizens, which includes open data discussion, may bring us to a place where the engagement ecosystem is more robust.





Ontario has officially adopted the International Open Data Charter, which is a large step towards creating an open and transparent government. In this interactive session members of the Open Government Office explained how they are trying to engage citizens in the use and production of data, to optimize public use of open data. They explained how they hope to create a culture change that will enable departments to have an open data champion, and tailor capacity building to several different roles in order to engage with all members and departments.

They want to understand what open data is of value to the public as they recognize they have been very reactive. They ended the session with an activity where the group could voice what they think is important. The discussion ranged from who gets value from open data to talking about what the priorities should be in the near and long term future.  




In the afternoon, the “Smart Cities & Digital Government” panel engaged with the audience to discuss topics relating to the future of cities and our place within them. Panelists Sameer Vasta, Jury Konga, Rachel Bloom, and Sean Galloway covered topical themes such as what it means to be a citizen during the age of smart cities, how to engage and regulate private firms within a smart city ecosystem, and what governance will look like moving forward in the digital age.


“So proud of this year's GO Open Data Conference which continued to expand our diversity and inclusion - new topics, mostly new speakers and many new attendees!  From First Nations health challenges to rural community strengths to Smart City realities to the announcement of Ontario's adoption of the International Open Data Charter - the positive response to our program will spur us on to keep it going for #GOOD18!"

- Jury Konga




In this session, Alannah Hilt from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat outlined how the Government of Canada launched the open data inventory, which identified 1500 additional data sets from various departments. She explained that the point of the exercise is to maximize the release of government data to benefit Canadians. Throughout the presentation, she outlined the different steps that went into creating the open data inventory, including assisting departments with finding their data sets, creating a comprehensive template, and publishing and ranking the data sets by priority.

The Government will continue to update the open data inventory on an annual basis. Hilt explained that they were able to get a lot of good data from larger departments, who are the leaders in open data, but the smaller departments did struggle, therefore they will spend more time assisting them with finding and releasing their data. 




Leveraging data is a crucial aspect of the overall open data phenomenon; data by itself has little value. It is this point that speakers Shingai Manjengwa and Bob Lytle underscored during the “Understanding Data Analytics” workshop. Representing the perspective of private firms within the open data continuum, both presenters emphasized the importance of deriving value from data and how that could be accomplished. Manjengwa and Lytle drew on case studies focusing on youth employment and cross-border trade respectively to demonstrate that data can increasingly be used to answer difficult policy questions.




Throughout the GOOD17 conference, municipalities were lauded for their leadership in advancing open data programs across Canada. Despite their limited capacity and severely strained budgets, local governments are finding ways to create cross-departmental teams and community partnerships to build open data expertise, databases, and portals.

Jury Konga, Associate of Open North and Canadian Ambassador for Open Knowledge International, moderated this panel’s discussion of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for Canada’s municipal open data practitioners. Connie McCutcheon, Open Data Project Lead for Niagara Region, spoke to the role academic and industry partnerships have played in strengthening Niagara’s community-based open data initiative.

Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief of the Public Sector Digest and Conference Co-Chair for GOOD17, provided an overview of the state of municipal open data capacity and outcomes in Canada via a discussion of the Digest’s Open Cities Index – Canada’s first national benchmarking program for municipal open data initiatives. Finally, Morgan Rosenberg, Business Analyst with TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario, shared case studies in regional innovation, where start-ups have accessed grant funding to get their open data projects off the ground.


“The Go Open Data Conference is unique in that it brings together thought leaders and practitioners from across sectors to discuss the application of open data to community-based problems and opportunities. Open data has the potential to improve transparency in government, unlock value for economic growth, and enhance collaboration across organizations and sectors – a very compelling rationale for gathering annually at the GOOD conference!”


- Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief, Public Sector Digest and GOOD17 Conference Co-Chair 


“To build a strong city, we must have open data policies encouraging innovation, collaboration and access to information for all. This can lead to streamlining city services and reducing the overall cost to provide them.”


- Mayor Matt Brown, City of London      




On Day Two of the conference, civic and technologically-minded folks gathered at Fanshawe College’s Center for Digital and Performance Arts to brainstorm, collaborate, design and develop solutions and projects that will strengthen communities across Ontario. As one project developed through this hackathon day, engaged Londoners worked on an algorithm to model outcomes in a hypothetical ranked ballot election. With London’s City Council just voting to adopt ranked balloting for the upcoming 2018 municipal election, the City of London will become the first Canadian city to leave the first-past-the-post voting system behind.

Several Londoners also took the opportunity of the hackathon to officially launch Civic Tech London - a community of engaged citizens interested in better understanding and finding solutions to London’s civic challenges through technology, design and other means.


For additional photos from Day 1 and 2, please consult the complete Go Open Data Conference 2017 Review PDF.