Today Minister Tony Clement held a Google+ hangout to discuss the use of open data in the Canadian government.
A Google+ hangout is a video chat with multiple members. In this case, a group of panellists engaged in dialogue while YouTube viewers posted real time questions through tweets and on Google+.
The discussion on open data was framed by the Minister in a global context: how can Canada become the kind of country that innovates to give easier access to data for citizens?
Much of the debate concerned what form this data could, or should, take. Should data be “dumped” in a raw form, open to be browsed by anyone with the skills to understand it? Or, should it be presented to the public in a more user-friendly format, so that those of us with more limited technical ability can read it, too?
The sorts of niche uses of open data that can effect real change for citizens were very exciting to the panellists. For example, mobile apps that give up-to-the-minute bus schedule information, or a website to track pollution in Canadian cities (www.emitter.ca).
The debate also touched on citizens and government interaction. Open data allows for citizen feedback, and it allows citizens to create software using official data.
The discussion gave the sense that Canada is moving toward greater innovations in government. The video chat format was interesting in its use of current technology; unfortunately, while it was billed as the first government of Canada Google+ hangout, that title was scooped by Justin Trudeau a day in advance.