Connection: governments want it, citizens demand it, technology facilitates it and data makes it meaningful. Some hail data as the new oil. Treasury Board President Tony Clement calls it “Canada’s new natural resource.” While no one doubts its value, the proper skills and tools to provide value for end users continue to be debated. In the wake of initiatives such as the XMG Studio and Government of Canada sponsored CODE Appathon, Open Data is the emergent issue of the moment.
Apps and Solutions
By making data sets publicly accessible through the data.gc.ca website, the government has provided Canadians with the opportunity to create solutions and applications geared toward improving our daily lives. Solutions are being developed in forms such as MASAS-X, an app for the emergency management and public safety community, facilitating information sharing such as meteorological and natural hazard warnings and advice on where to find first aid and emergency shelters. Another solution which drivers might appreciate in any Canadian city is a version of Boston-based The Street Bump, an app which helps to inform the city council of new potholes that need to be filled, thereby enhancing the connection between the city and its citizens.
From the government’s perspective, determining this connection between citizen and data often requires a sense of context. Without understanding reference or specific context, this abundance of data can quickly turn from valuable connection to costly burden.
Tools and data are a symbiotic pairing. Just as a solution or app is only as good as the data that is fed into it, so is data reliant on technology to form it into something meaningful. Open Data tools, such as Cogniva’s ISIS, allow users to tap into the power of Open Data holdings, automatically capturing and applying context to information holdings, both structured and unstructured. Information Management no longer lives at the end of the information’s lifecycle; it lives at its point of creation and throughout.
As much as the government must invest in opening up and providing this data, it must also invest in the proper skills and tools to effectively and efficiently store and process it. Progressive organizations are using automated classification upon creation and artificial intelligence to add context to their data.
Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) requests have long been the established, legal route for citizens to obtain information from governments. However, pressure to embrace Open Data is changing that. It is not enough anymore to say that the information is available for those who have the determination to come and get it. Information-savvy Citizens demand not only transparency and accountability from their elected governments, they demand connection.
Speaking to citizens in a language they understand, through a medium they are intuitively familiar with, provides this connection. The government of Canada is engaging with innovators and coders to design apps using government data which citizens can easily access, interact with, and derive value from.
Open Data, Open Government, Open Source, Open Standard – all of these buzz words can be melted down to one fundamental thing: connection. The need for humans to connect is not a new phenomenon, but now we have the technology to facilitate it in ways previously unheard of.
In the oil and gold eras, necessity was often the mother of invention, but now within the “Information Age” our need to connect drives innovation. We are now learning to interact and communicate in these new and innovative ways. Current initiatives such as the government of Canada-sponsored CODE Appathon demonstrate the government’s determination to reach out and connect with its citizens – the very citizens who demand this of their government. When the offering meets the demand, and the value proposition is clear, everybody wins.