Canadian Open Data Summit in Vancouver February 21, 2014

I wait with great anticipation for the Canadian Open Data Summit this year. Day off work, check. Approved training request, check. Interesting and varied line up of speakers, check. Engaging MC, check. Opportunities for networking, check. Reconnecting with friends and open data enthusiasts, check.

This year I’m particularly looking forward to the presentation from Jeni Tennison. Jeni is the Technical Director for the Open Data Institute (ODI). The ODI catalyzes the evolution of open data to create economic, environmental and social value. Jeni is an engineer, developer and pragmatist. She digs into how open data can bring economic growth, demographic engagement, and public sector efficiency. Jeni works on open data projects with a specific, practical goal and I look forward to hearing what she has to say.

Besides Jeni, Chad Skelton from the Vancouver Sun will discuss how he uses open data in reporting and how the The Sun has become more transparent about the process of journalism. Emma Irwin from Mozilla will show how kids can have fun with open data and create awesome projects while learning how data and the web work.

The Canadian Open Data Summit will build on the success of the BC Open Data Summit last yearwith help from volunteers from across Canada. Jeni, Chad, and Emma are but a few speakers in a day jam-packed with open data and open government specialists from organizations including the Province of BC, Government of CanadaOpen North, Montréal and Québec OuvertCity of Vancouver, Mozilla, ResiderMount Royal UniversityWorld Bank and the Open Institute.

So what are you waiting for? You can sign up to Canada’s premiere open data event of the year at

Maybe you are already registered. If so, let us know who you are looking forward to seeing in the comments.

Standardized Global Data Structure Common Sense Next Step for Open Data

Throughout the world we have thousands of open data sets being published. A subset of this data is cataloged here. This is a good thing. Data is the next emerging frontier of the democratization of information, possibly as revolutionary as the Internet in bringing information into the hands of people so they can make informed decisions, hold companies, governments, and leaders into account, and drive the new economy into the future with innovative data-driven start ups. Data is the building block of information, and information makes the world go round.

data(Data chaos 3 image by sachynroyalty free)

Wouldn’t it be great to have a common standard that governments and other organizations adhere to when publishing their data? That way data from one company or jurisdiction could be compared with the data from another. Global comparative analysis of local government financial, traffic, or crime data, for example, would reveal the best-run local governments and shed light on best practices that could be shared between jurisdictions.

Common standards vastly increases the number of people who can use a data set and exponentially increases the reach and impact of code that is written against that data for use in other jurisdictions. It also means that linked data can be used for exponentially more uses as more and more data is connected. Like the Internet, connected data becomes more and more useful as a building block for information as its reach and inter-connectivity expand.

Standardization is one of the main reasons that transit data is one of the most leveraged data sets across the globe. In 2005, Google and the City of Portland Tri-Met created the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS), a standardized format for transit data. Any transit agency that stores transit data in this specified format can use the open source TimeTable Publisher developed by Tri-Met and Google and many other free applications built on the GTFS data including mobile transit planning apps and trip planners that use text messaging.

The benefits of standardized data structure for open data is clear. The question is how do we bring governments together to standardize the open data structure so we can better leverage open source development based on open data and more effectively link open data for better analysis, transparency and accountability. Perhaps, this is question that is best addressed by the Open Government Partnership or the Open Data Institute. The mandate of the Open Government Partnership is to make governments better by making them more transparent, effective and accountable. A standardized open data structure would go along way towards that goal. The Open Data Institute, which will officially launch on December 4th “will catalyse the evolution of an open data culture to create economic, environmental, and social value.” Either organization is well positioned to champion the cross-government open data standard.