17 March 2011 ~ 0 Comments

If the feds can, why can’t we?

Those of you in the twittersphere or following Gov in Canada feeds/blogs have probably heard today’s biggest news in the IT/gov sector: the launch of Canadian Open Data portal http://data.gc.ca

This is a catalyst for innovation, as companies & organizations are able to find new and creative ways to analyze, visualize, integrate & built upon these datasets. UK, US and major cities across the World have spawned a number of web and mobile applications for their citizens, ranging from transit & parking to health & environment monitoring app, helping drive better government services & more citizenship engagement.

While many of Data.gc.ca’s datasets seem to be pointers to some older data (like the NPRI Industrial Pollution data that our team used earlier this year to build EMITTER.CA), there are some new and interesting datasets which have numerous commercial & non-commercial applications. In particular, the 260,000+ geospacial datasets, also representing a vast majority of data released, is seriously awesome data that nerds like myself would love to use in applications. From roads, to province boundaries to coasts & inland water resources, many of these are in GIS formats, which makes for easy/easier mash-up opportunities.

The objective of OpenHalton is to try to get similar type data for the Halton region. We’re at the very end of an intersting project WardRep, which would have already been released…. had it not been for the lack of open data. WardRep is intended to allow residents of city to easily & intuitively see which City Ward they live in, and who their City Councilors are + see in one place different ways to contact them (email, phone, twitter, facebook, etc.)

Unfortunately, at this time we only have Milton’s ward boundary data (thanks to some diligent data scraping by one of our members), as well as data from Guelph and London, ON which luckily arrived in an map-ready format. WE NEED that same data for Oakville, Burlington & Halton Hills in a GIS format to avoid unnecessary scraping & digitizing of data. What takes minutes for a city IT employee to export from a GIS system takes hours for someone to “scrape” from PDFs…. and this data is alreay something that city has and should  be shared.

It is my sincere hope that today’s announcement will trigger some thinking & action on the part of our local municipalities to follow in the footsteps of other Canadian cities — and now Federal Gov’t — in becoming more open with our data!!

Attributions: mrdamcgowan http://www.flickr.com/photos/29667181@N05/3859685426/in/photostream/