In the spirit of openness, I have decided to publicly share my open-ended responses to the ongoing Canadian Open Government Consultation, which has been taking place since December 6th, 2011 and is scheduled to end January 16th, 2012. The consultation covers questions on Open Data, Open Information, Open Dialogue and the Open Government Strategy. If you are a Canadian Citizen, I strongly suggest that you take the time to complete this short albeit extremely important survey. For more information on this initiative, please consult this news release.
I have only included open-ended questions. You can see the complete question list here.
What could be done to make it easier for you to find and use government data provided online?
The creation of a central government data portal is key. Data.gc.ca is a good start but it needs to have a “Google-like” (i.e. easy to use) user interface and machine readable data sets in a consistent format. This means more resources will need to be spent on the actual cleaning up of data before it is uploaded to the site. Separate sections for end-users and developers should be made as well. Avoid techie jargon as it tends to scare people away.
How would you use or manipulate this data (note: I was given a list of data sets)?
This would fully depend on what I am trying to accomplish at any given moment in time. It’s kind of like asking the question: “How would you use Google?”. Answer: To quickly find the www content I am looking for. In the case of open data, it would be to quickly and easily be able to manipulate and mashup data from a trusted source (data.gc.ca), rather than looking for it first. For example, if I am working on an anti-smoking health initiative I would love to be able to mashup the last 5 government ad campaign spends with the actual smoking rates in Canada over time.
What could be done to make it easier for you to find government information online?
A central portal just like data.gc.ca is for open data. Perhaps openinfo.gc.ca ? Remember that usability will be crucial. Think Google.
Do you have suggestions on how the Government of Canada could improve how it consults with Canadians?
Instead of spending $2.8M on advertising to tout the second phase of the Economic Action Plan this summer, merely a fraction of a fraction of that could have been spent to very effectively promote the open government consultations via social media (including psychographically targeted advertising).
Are there approaches used by other governments that you believe the Government of Canada could/should model?
Every government is unique. The U.S , U.K, and Australia have made some great strides in this area but have also had their fare share of setbacks. I’m just thrilled to finally see the Canadian government taking Gov 2.0 seriously. As a side note, it would be great if you could start sending some key senior”decision making level” delegates to future Gov 2.0 conferences so that there is more than one “Canadian” table at lunch. It has been quite embarrassing to date.
Are there any other comments or suggestions you would like to make pertaining to the Government of Canada’s Open Government initiative?
As mentioned in my previous responses, I am very happy we are finally moving forward with this. Please don’t just let the findings of these consultations collect dust. Act on them asap.