The Road to Open Data

Statistics Canada got its open data report card last week. And, it contains very good news! Open Data Watch ranked Canada 8th among 173 national statistical offices. This is the first year that the organization, based in Washington, D.C., has included Canada in its annual report. The goal of Open Data Watch is to ensure that data are accessible to all.

The ranking is not just about bragging rights—it is a sign that we are meeting international open data standards and principles. Through the ranking feedback, agencies can also learn ways to better meet the open data mandate.

Top 10

Bill Joyce, Director of the Dissemination Division at Statistics Canada, sees a top-10 ranking as confirmation that Statistics Canada remains a world leader in data accessibility. “It is certainly good news,” says Mr. Joyce. “It is a validation that we are among the world leaders when it comes to respecting the principles of open data.”

Sweden was at the top of the Open Data Watch rankings. After Sweden, the rankings were: Czech Republic, Norway, Poland, Lithuania, Denmark, Estonia, Canada, the United States and Finland.

The score combines two components: coverage and openness.

Coverage measures the range of social and economic data made available by the national statistical office and whether those data are available for a low level of geography (i.e., by city or region).

The openness rating answers a host of questions: are the data free of cost? Is an unrestrictive licence applied? Are the data downloadable?

Improving openness

Over the past few years, Statistics Canada has taken several steps to make its data more available. Canada's high ranking reflects these efforts. In 2012, CANSIM—the agency's socioeconomic database—became free to use. The public can now access thousands of data tables, selecting the indicators that interest them and manipulating the data to see changes over time. At the same time the agency adopted an open licence and eliminated all royalty and licensing fees.

Statistics Canada is also a major contributor to building and maintaining the Open Government Portal. Close to 75% of the portal's total non-geospatial content comes from Statistics Canada.

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