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Question 9: "Are there any other comments or suggestions you would like to make pertaining to the Government of Canada's Open Government initiative?"
Some additional ideas:
Redefine Public as Digital: Pass an Online Information Act
Any document it produces should be available digitally, in a machine readable format. The sham that the government can produce 3000-10,000 printed pages about Afghan detainees or the F-35 and claim it is publicly disclosing information must end.
Any data collected for legislative reasons must be made available - in machine readable formats - via a government open data portal.
Any information that is ATIPable must be made available in a digital format. And that any excess costs of generating that information can be born by the requester, up until a certain date (say 2015) at which point the excess costs will be born by the ministry responsible. There is no reason why, in a digital world, there should be any cost to extracting information - indeed, I fear a world where the government can't cheaply locate and copy its own information for an ATIP request as it would suggest it can't get that information for its own operations.
Use Open Data to drive efficiency in Government Services: Require the provinces to share health data – particularly hospital performance - as part of its next funding agreement within the Canada Health Act.
Comparing hospitals to one another is always a difficult task, and open data is not a panacea. However, more data about hospitals is rarely harmful and there are a number of issues on which it would be downright beneficial. The most obvious of these would be deaths caused by infection. The number of deaths that occur due to infections in Canadian hospitals is a growing problem (sigh, if only open data could help ban the antibacterial wipes that are helping propagate them). Having open data that allows for league tables to show the scope and location of the problem will likely cause many hospitals to rethink processes and, I suspect, save lives.
Open data can supply some of the competitive pressure that is often lacking in a public healthcare system. It could also better educate Canadians about their options within that system, as well as make them more aware of its benefits.
Reduce Fraud: Creating a Death List
In an era where online identity is a problem it is surprising to me that I'm unable to locate a database of expired social insurance numbers. Being able to querry a list of social security numbers that belong to dead people might be a simple way to prevent fraud. Interestingly, the United States has just such a list available for free online. (Side fact: Known as the Social Security Death Index this database is also beloved by genealogist who use it to trace ancestry).
Open Budget and Actual Spending Data
For almost a year the UK government has published all spending data, month by month, for each government ministry (down to the £500 in some, £25,000 in others). More over, as an increasing number of local governments are required to share their spending data it has lead to savings, as government begin to learn what other ministries and governments are paying for similar services.
Create a steering group of leading Provincial and Municipal CIOs to create common schema for core data about the country.
While open data is good, open data organized the same way for different departments and provinces is even better. When data is organized the same way it makes it easier to citizens to compare one jurisdiction against another, and for software solutions and online services to emerge that use that data to enhance the lives of Canadians. The Federal Government should use its convening authority to bring together some of the countries leading government CIOs to establish common data schemas for things like crime, healthcare, procurement, and budget data. The list of what could be worked on is virtually endless, but those four areas all represent data sets that are frequently requested, so might make for a good starting point.- David Eaves