Ontario Becomes Latest Province to Launch Open Data Portal

Ontario residents are getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the place they call home. This month, Ontario became the latest province to launch an open data portal.

Currently, the database contains 63 files on various topics, including roadwork, geology, and tourism in the province. The online portal is easy to use and files can be downloaded directly from the website onto a PC.

Ontario’s open data portal was first announced by MPP Glen Murray in 2011. Updates to the project are ongoing and users are invited to submit suggestions via Twitter or email.

The goal of the portal is to make statistical information accessible to the general public, including developers and designers. This data can then be integrated into interactive apps and programs.

According to the official website, users are permitted to copy and adapt the data for commercial purposes. However, they can’t use statistics in a way that violates the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The Ontario portal joins multiple open data projects that are already underway throughout the country. A handful of major cities, including Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver, have accessible databases. At the provincial level, Quebec and British Columbia have also launched portals online. 

The availability of government statistics has encouraged Canadian developers and entrepreneurs. This Is Our Stop, a public transportation app from Vancouver, is just one example of a recent project based on open data.   

Open-access portals have also encouraged Canadians to get more engaged in local government.  Last week, a group of Montreal activists staged a hackathon to expose corruption in the city. Tellingly, they used municipal records from an open database to conduct their research.

At the federal level, an open data portal that was launched in March 2011 now contains almost 300,000 datasets. According to the federal government’s official website, the project’s purpose is “to make data available for commercial or research purposes to benefit all Canadians.”

In October, Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board, announced plans to update the federal data portal with better search tools. Minister Clement also confirmed the government’s commitment to support Canadian entrepreneurs through online databases.   

“The opportunities that open data offers to spur innovation, fuel growth, and improve people’s lives, is truly exciting,” he said in a statement. “We want to make it as easy as possible for Canadian entrepreneurs and innovators to turn government data into user-friendly applications.”