[CivicAccess-discuss] Update on OGP...
HLOW at toronto.ca
Tue Apr 24 11:32:10 EDT 2012
The 2012 Open Government Partnership (OGP) Meeting in Brazil is now
sadly over - or rather it's just the beginning! First let me apologize
for being "quiet" during the week. I am not a veteran blogger or tweeter
since these social media activities have been traditionally restricted
where I work in my "day job" as a civil servant. I am therefore
belatedly providing you with a brief update on the planning that led up
to the event, thoughts on the conference, some of my input, and some
Planning Leading up to the event...
Since we received the Federal Action Plan on Open Government only a few
days before the meeting, there was no time for any kind of a structured
response to the Federal Plan. I however had compiled phone consultation
and information posted on Civicaccess into a thick set of notes which
were invaluable during the event.(Tracey managed to do a fabulous job of
posting all the materials and your attachments on the CCSD OGP website
with updated links on datalibre.ca).
The mantle of the single Canadian Civil Society (CS) panelist fell to
Toby Mendel (as a result of an OGP selection process that was very
unclear at that time). I was able to discuss with Toby our collective
approach to a response at our Regional Session. David Eaves and Michael
Gurstein were also present in the audience and I think we had some
though provoking discussions that the Feds took away (more on this later
in this update). Toby focused on the FOI issues. Along with the notes,
Tracey and I also put together a two-pager summary of Canadian civil
society resources for distribution at the event (Slide Share -
On a side note, I do want you to know that I was asked at the last
minute by OGP to participate in the INNOVATION VILLAGE. I initially
declined as it needed to be a demo of a very specific I&T application
(which is impossible in our case with all the innovation examples
nationally!). In the end I relented after further discussions with OGP
(I suspect they needed more live demos at zero-hour). I had to send a
placeholder deck with emphasis on the only demo I could do (our own
Toronto Open Data application). But we ended up also with a much fuller
deck covering as broad Civil Society examples as we could give, and
cycled them on the screen during the rest of the day after my 5 minute
demo on our local app - thanks Tracey. This presentation should be
posted on the OGP website by now. Sorry I could not incorporate those of
you that sent me info on Friday as you understand I had to pack! Theya
re also here FYI - (Drop Box -
and Slide Share -
(Presentation - Drop Box -
Slide Share -
Thoughts about the event...
To say the event was well attended is an understatement. There were
well over 1000 people attending from as far away as Indonesia and
Tanzania. What is more significant is that the number of countries in
attendance (and thus embracing open government) increased from 43 to 73!
Including Canada, there were 35 plans submitted, including e-petitions
and other actions.
I have been to conferences before, but this one was different in that I
sensed a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and importantly, real commitment to
embrace open government from all parties. The countries were at very
different stages of their national action plans, which in itself were
beneficial as that permitted concrete exchange of issues, approaches,
and best practices. It was not only a chance for national governments to
interact with their civil society reps, but also for all parties to
exchange ideas between countries. It is a foundation to build on these
plans collectively with government reps and among each other. The
diverse communities of practice were well represented including
stakeholders in legislation/FOI, data, technology, civic engagement,
academia, information specialists, and free speech advocates. I believe
that such representation is crucial for long term sustainability as
OpenGov is not about any single one of these interests, but the
collective contributions of all these components.
What I did find somewhat troubling in my opinion, is that there still
seems to be somewhat of a mutually exclusive emphasis of these
components as separate entities by specialists within these areas. Some
feel data are more important, while other feel the priority is
legislation - to me there is no distinction of importance - it is about
interoperability. This could be the result of a maturing process which
can only be strengthened through further such events by bringing an
understanding of how all these components of interoperability fit
together and contribute towards a much fuller open government model. To
illustrate my point, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also warned that
technology is not a magic wand, and that political will is also
required. I also emhpasized the need for more "relevant" data and not
just politically neutral data.
As for our response to the Federal Action Plan, our session went well
in the sense that the dialogue was productive (I spent quite a bit of
time outside of sessions with all the Federal representatives, including
discussions with Minister Clement). There will be more aspects of the
plan released over the next few weeks, including some new commitments
along with time-lines - at least that's what we were told. More on this
As for the overall reaction on the civil society side, an overall
observation is the lack of time given to civil society reps, not only
for the response but for presentations as well. Panels were often too
large to permit only 5-7 minutes each with some speakers going over
their allotted times and reducing others to accommodate. The biggest
problem however, was that the whole conference suffered from severe I&T
logistical issues from being off schedule by 2 hours on the first day,
lack of announcements on schedule changes, no maps to room locations,
some screen resolution and audio issues, and absolutely NO wifi at all
on day one - not good given the emphasis on the role technology plays in
all of this! I also hear that the social media feeds had issues as
The other area absent, seems to be the "municipal-NGO network" voice as
this was one of my main recommendations at our regional response. We
need inclusion of sub-national bi-lateral discussions and
representation. The sub-national lens is crucial in its interaction with
NGO sectors given the mixed service delivery systems at local and
regional levels and the need for greater acknowledgment of
interoperability among all sectors including private and even academia.
Finally, while the OGP released the Articles of Governance, but given
its infancy and our discussions with the OGP Steering Committee after
the last day, that my interpretation is that there is room to modify and
strengthen not only the articles but the roles of some within OGP
Steering Committee structure. The OGP Steering Committee took our
feedback from a final session as some of us stayed on to provide it and
are open to further suggestions.
So here are some of the issues that I highlighted (not in any
1) That there is a need to begin exploring in greater detail the
challenges that beset data delivery that go beyond the simple desire for
"more data". We need to begin thinking about proper database design as
data providers, to permit more seamless integration between data across
government departments. We also need to change the legislation to permit
this to happen (recognizing of course privacy protection). For example,
there is now no ability for some jurisdictions to merge their caseload
client data with shelter use. This would be invaluable for better
integrated service delivery as well as a richer data resource for
2) Expand the data to areas of accountability and transparency and
have public mechanisms in place to rate or provide feedback as to what
data are missing, relevancy, data quality etc.
3) Better coordinate hackethons by marrying technology and
developers with user community (e.g., health sector). The playing field
is getting bigger and more complex now.
4) Recognize that in my opinion, data must be weighed with vital
service access. For example, having worked in homeless shelters myself,
it is more important to get clients into beds than it is to ensure that
long surveys and questions are asked before service is rendered. This
is safe to say for call reference data such as 211 which I helped set-up
and now on a national advisory board to explore such data as a resource
5) Adopt strong internal record retention policies to ensure data
source providers are aware of the importance of maintaining data, but
OVER TIME as well. The increasing pressure for accountability can only
be achieved through time series data.
6) Work on updating legislation on FOI and others such as Assessment
Act to allow freer access to public data.
7) Discuss with experts in Civil Society on better standardization
of data. This supplements data reporting.
8) Discuss with civil society across ALL areas of interest. Right
now, there is abyss in NGO sector representation in Canada (e,.g.,
community health centres, food banks etc). Data must also be relevant
not onto to developers, but also to clients who need those services.
9) Increase participation of business units in Open data initiatives
that should not be the sole lead of I&T sectors. The content is as
important as the technology that supports it! Both are required!
10)Leverage national networks and try to bridge these networks so each
area can better understand how they can operate and support each other.
The OGP is a very young initiative and at this rate, the momentum has
started that I believe will only increase even if, in a worse case
scenario there were no further conventions, which of course I hope is
not the case. Willpower eventually turns into reality. The momentum has
been started that will be hard to stop. It will be a useful resource at
all levels of government in efforts to adopt OpenGov principles.
As for next steps, we will update the web sites with any new input and
send this to the Federal reps. I will also table what I learned, at
future FCM and CCSD national meetings, so that we can leverage this into
more data and accountability. Finally, we need to discuss the invitation
from the Feds to broaden the advisory panel's representation and the
opportunities for wider civil society input. Thank you!
Canadian Civil Society Rep,
CCSD, Community Data Program
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