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Open Cities Index Results 2017

In 2015, when the Public Sector Digest (PSD) launched the Open Cities Index (OCI) with Canada’s Open Data Exchange, Canadian municipalities were reluctant to talk about their open data initiatives. With little concept of how mature their open data programs were compared to one another, municipal open data leaders shied away from discussing their strategies, challenges and best practices. In many cities, the individual responsible for open data at city hall could not even be identified.

Today, as we publish the third annual Open Cities Index results, there is a noticeable change in the attitude toward open data programs across local governments. No longer is open data simply a pet project of a single staff member seeking buy-in from his or her colleagues. For many local governments, open data is now a strategic priority, and project teams are being created to encourage cross-departmental participation. There remain, of course, those communities where limited capacity restricts the ability for staff to take on open data as a new challenge. For others, council or senior leadership may still be resistant to change, arguing that open data poses too great of a “risk” to justify the benefits of increased transparency and accountability.

Despite these persistent challenges, municipal open data programs as a whole are continuing to mature across the country.  Entrepreneurs are now able to find an open data contact right on their municipality’s website, and if they’re lucky, that contact may even be planning an open data hackathon or workshop with the help of community partners. In order to increase internal efficiencies in local government, municipalities are now launching cross-departmental open data training programs. Some local governments have even introduced case studies or personas to add context to diverse and complex datasets.       

In order to help capture this evolution in open data sophistication, several new questions were added to the 2017 Open Cities Index survey. In the Readiness section of the survey, scored questions were added pertaining to the governance of open data initiatives and the extent to which municipalities are providing educational resources related to open data. In the Implementation section, four new datasets were added to the list of eligible scored datasets: HR data, safety data, street tree data, and culture data. Survey respondents were also asked to provide links for all reported datasets, allowing for the creation of a robust municipal open data link repository in PSD’s OCI Benchmarking Tool. Finally, in the Impact section of the survey, additional unscored questions were added pertaining to the number of downloads/views of datasets, the reported change in freedom of information requests from 2016 to 2017, and the emergence of civic-tech groups and the development of crowdsourced citizen platforms.

With a more robust survey, capturing greater detail in all aspects of open data program maturity, we’re seeing movement across the Top 20 Most Open Cities for 2017. Municipalities of all sizes continue the push to publish more, high quality, diverse datasets. In 2016, an average of 79 datasets were published by our participating municipalities, rising to an average of 97 datasets per municipality in 2017. 

On behalf of our team at PSD, congratulations to all of our participating OCI communities. You are raising the bar for municipal innovation, transparency, and accountability, and cities around the world are taking note. We encourage you to participate in our quarterly virtual round table series where we discuss the latest insights pulled from the OCI survey results and invite open data leaders to share their expertise. Stay tuned for more research and thought leadership from PSD in 2018    




Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief



Canada’s Top 20 Most Open Cities Announced for 2017

Now in its third year, the Open Cities Index launched in 2015 as Canada’s first study to benchmark municipal open data initiatives across the country. The 2015 edition of the Open Cities Index included 34 of Canada’s largest municipalities, with the City of Edmonton securing the number one spot in the inaugural ranking. This year, the Open Cities Index includes 61 municipalities, with 9 brand new participating communities. For the third year in a row, the City of Edmonton has grabbed the top spot in the Open Cities Index ranking, claiming once again the title of “Canada’s Most Open City.”

For the third 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. The City of Winnipeg has climbed seven positions from 10th in 2016 to third in 2017. The 2017 Top 20 list includes two municipalities brand new to the Index: Kamloops and Greater Sudbury, coming in 15th and 19th respectively. The City of Welland, Ontario, with a population of 52,293, earned the “Most Improved” accolade this year, climbing 37 spots in the ranking from 57th in 2016 to 20th in 2017. The 2017 Top 20 list includes 10 municipalities from Ontario, four from British Columbia, three from Alberta, two from Manitoba, and one from Quebec. 

New this year, PSD recognized the top municipalities from four population categories: 0-50,000, 50,001-100,000, 100,001-250,000, 250,000+. With municipalities of different sizes having varying capacities to advance their open data initiatives, it is important to recognize the impressive work being done in the open data space, despite limited resources. The top ranking community in the large municipality category (250,000+) is of course the City of Edmonton with 932,546 residents. The top ranking municipality in the second population category (100,001-250,000) is the Town of Oakville, ON, with a population of 193,832 and an overall rank of 17th. In the third population category (50,001-100,000), the City of New Westminster, BC, with a population of 70,996, secured the top spot and an overall ranking of 6th. Finally, in the smallest population category (0-50,000), the City of Brandon, MB, with a population of 48,859 scored the highest ranking (13th overall). PSD also recognized the Regional Municipality of Niagara as the highest scoring upper-tier municipality in the 2017 ranking, rising from 14th to 9th this year. Upper-tier local governments (counties and regions) have differing responsibilities and often more limited access to certain data sets compared to lower-tier or single-tier municipalities.

Participating communities in the 2017 Open Cities Index

Edmonton, as Canada’s Most Open City, received a score of 98% overall for its open data program. With an Open Data Committee that meets monthly, a strategic open data plan in place, and an open data policy to govern its activities, Edmonton has a strong foundation for its open data program. Edmonton has published online, up-to-date, freely available, machine-readable, automated datasets that are linked to APIs under all but three of the 36 categories of datasets included in the Open Cities Index. In 2017, four new datasets were added to the list of eligible scored datasets (HR data, safety data, street tree data, and culture data) – Edmonton includes all four in its open data portal.

Edmonton has also made advancements to better ascertain the impact of its open data initiative internally and across the community. City of Edmonton staff are encouraged to use the municipality’s open data portal directly, reducing the time it takes to request information across business areas. As of June 2017, 4,235 City of Edmonton staff were using the portal, with 54,171 dataset and visualization views. Just one example of the positive external impact of Edmonton’s open data program is the local start-up TruHome – a real estate firm that utilizes Edmonton’s open data to allow private citizens to make better informed decisions about the cities and houses they choose to call home. The machine readable data downloaded from feeds an interactive assessment tool allowing users to identify their ideal neighbourhood based on proximity to amenities, schools and other selection criteria. As the host of the 2017 Canadian Open Data Summit (CODS) in June, Edmonton continues to lead Canadian cities into uncharted open data waters, exploring new approaches to old problems and finding innovative ways to build community engagement in its open data program.

 TruHome property search draws from Edmonton’s open data portal to display nearby amenities



The overall average score for the 61 participating municipalities was 43% for 2017, up from 27% in 2016.  The national average of 24 percent in the Implementation category of the Index has risen to 34 percent in 2017, with the average in the Readiness category climbing from 34 percent to 43 percent. In the Impact category, the average rose from 35 percent to 38 percent in 2017. Stay tuned for our quarterly OCI reports, revealing more insights from the 2017 Open Cities Index survey including the state of open data budgets, staffing, governance, partnerships and peformance measurement. Follow PSD @PSDintelligence and sign up for our newsletters to get the latest on the OCI as it's published.   



The Open Cities Index serves as a supplementary guide for cities looking to initiate or advance their open data programs. Until now, 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:

1)       Readiness: To what extent is the municipality ready/capable of fostering positive outcomes through its open data initiative?

2)       Implementation: To what extent has the city fulfilled its open data goals and ultimately, what data has it posted online?

3)       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 36 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. 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 2017 Open Cities Index methodology can be found here.


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info [at] publicsectordigest [dot] com