R7: Open Data

I’m posting on the reasons I won’t vote for Stephen Harper and his party:

For any of my readers who don’t know, delivering “Open Data” is the practice of collecting, analyzing, processing and releasing digital datasets, without concern about where it goes or who uses it. I’ve been involved in Open Data development for a number of years, since my days at Penn State when I was first working in demographics and and trying to relate between datasets. There are many benefits (see the Open Knowledge Blog, 2012), which are generally considered to far outweigh potential negative aspects, such as threats to privacy or potential use by terrorists. Harper tends to focus on those dangers, and thus inhibits the creativity and the productivity associated with Open Data.

There was an Open Data Canada site (Open Data Portal) launched a few years ago: the intent was to illustrate that the government of Canada could be open and accessible. Indeed, the Open Data Portal was the lynchpin in the efforts of Mr. Harper’s government to show that they were an “Open Government”. And it’s true: some groups loved it. One of the organizations I was involved with had an annual contest: to use the data available on the portal (preferably the new data) and to develop an app that used it as quickly as could be done. And it really was a challenge: because some of the data is so odd and quixotic and difficult to use in the formats available. So guys like me enjoyed letting their inner geek run wild. But the very fact that we had to do that challenges the definition of what Open Data are. Open Date are supposed to be useful, relevant, timely, easy to use and available to all. Several groups gave Canada’s Open Data Portal a failing grade (National Post 2011; Eaves.ca 2014; Global News 2014; Ottawa Citizen 2014). The census used to be the base of Open Data for our country: and Harper killed that (Bowles, 2015). From their press releases (and that’s what Harper’s all about, isn’t it?), it would seem that the Harper Government has confused volume of data availability with usefulness of data availability. I’m not sure they even really understand the concept.

This is one of the characteristics I find of Harper’s leadership: if he doesn’t understand something (like open data, open government, personal privacy): rather than determining what the definition is, he just invents his own definition, and speaks about that. Thus he can say that they are making great strides in whatever the popular subject of the moment: even though in any real sense we have taken two steps backwards. It’s all about perception and communication: in this case, Harper’s. So when people are angry because they feel deceived by the PM, I believe he is truly surprised. That in itself shows that he cannot be reformed and needs to be replaced. He doesn’t try to be deceitful: he just is.

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2 Responses to R7: Open Data

  1. Pingback: Anyone But Harper | The Geographer's Corner

  2. Pingback: Harper’s War on Data | The Geographer's Corner

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