Good morning, everyone. Members of the committee, thank you for inviting us to speak to you today.
I am accompanied by two colleagues from the Privy Council Office—Mr. Ward Elcock and Ms. Karen Cahill. As you may know, Mr. Elcock is the special advisor on human smuggling and illegal migration. As such, he coordinates the Government of Canada strategy and response to migrant smuggling. Ms. Cahill is the executive director of the finance and corporate planning division of the corporate services branch in the Privy Council Office. In this capacity, she is also the deputy chief financial officer for the department.
My introductory comments are about the 2014-15 main estimates for the Privy Council Office (PCO) as well as its report on plans and priorities for the same year.
The PCO is seeking $118.8 million in the 2014-15 main estimates. This is an overall reduction of $4.6 million from the amount the PCO sought in last year's main estimates, which was $123.4 million.
The PCO's main estimates for this year are mainly related to the following.
A decrease of $4.4 million in savings was identified as part of the budget 2012 spending review. The PCO contribution to this exercise will total $9.2 million in savings, taking full effect today, in 2014-15. The PCO is one of many federal organizations that undertook this review with the goal of returning the government to balanced budgets, while at the same time improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations and programs.
To support these objectives, the PCO has undertaken several deficit reduction measures, including: transforming business processes across the department to achieve administrative efficiencies, further integrating the intergovernmental affairs function within the department, modernizing and streamlining the government communications function, and streamlining the cabinet system to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of decision-making.
The vast majority of PCO expenses consists of salaries and associated operational costs. As a result, most of the savings needed to be generated by having fewer employees within the department. These reductions were achieved through a fair and transparent workforce adjustment process where all affected employees were treated with respect and every possible effort was made to identify the best possible solution for each individual.
There is also a decrease of $1.4 million related to statutory authorities mostly related to contributions to employee benefit plans, which was made pursuant to Treasury Board Secretariat instructions.
In addition, there is a decrease of $0.3 million related to three efficiency exercises. The first one is the continuation of the consolidation of pay services to PWGSC's Centre of Expertise in Miramichi, New Brunswick. The two other efficiency exercises are for measures announced in Canada’s economic action plan 2013: namely, the consolidation of the procurement of workplace technology device software and the reduction of travel costs.
These decreases are partially offset by an increase of $1.2 million for activities related to the continued implementation of Canada's migrant smuggling prevention strategy, headed by Mr. Elcock. As mentioned earlier, Mr. Elcock's mandate is to coordinate the Government of Canada strategy and response to migrant smuggling.
In the last two years, Canada has successfully secured cooperation in transit countries in Southeast Asia and west Africa. The PCO works closely with four other federal agencies to further Canada's objectives on this important initiative. Approved funding of $1.2 million for 2013-14 was sought through the 2013-14 supplementary estimates (B) and presented to this committee during the PCO's last appearance. Funding for 2014-15 is now included in our main estimates.
An increase of $0.4 million represents the portion of wages and salary increases to be paid to employees during fiscal year 2014-15, in accordance with specific collective agreements that took effect last year.
This completes the explanation of PCO's 2014-15 main estimates.
I will turn now to PCO's report on plans and priorities for fiscal year 2014-15 to give you an overview of PCO's planning highlights.
To begin, it is important to note that the PCO's sole strategic outcome is to ensure that the government's agenda and decision-making are supported and implemented and that the institutions of government are supported and maintained.
In this regard, the PCO will continue to play a central coordination and advisory role within the public service to support the government in achieving its stated objectives for the year. The PCO plans to successfully meet this strategic outcome by focusing on four key operational priorities during the year. None of these are new priorities, but some of them have been updated recently to better highlight the importance of certain areas of the department's work. For example, you will note under priority one that the PCO is now reflecting its advisory and support role for portfolio ministers, in addition to the .
This role has always been done in the past and has always been reported under the plans for this priority, but the revised priority now accurately reflects that the PCO supports the Prime Minister and the portfolio ministers in exercising their overall leadership responsibilities by providing professional, non-partisan advice and support on the entire spectrum of the government's policy, legislative, and government administration priorities. This includes, among other things, advice on social and economic affairs, regional development, foreign affairs, national security, defence, Governor in Council appointments, intergovernmental relations, and the environment.
The second of PCO's priorities will be to support the deliberations of cabinet and its committees on key policy initiatives and coordinate medium-term policy planning. This priority has also been updated for this year to better reflect the importance of the advisory and support roles PCO has always played for cabinet and its committees.
What that looks like is that PCO manages the day-to-day activities that support the work of cabinet and its committees, such as scheduling and support services for meetings, as well as the distribution of cabinet documents.
PCO will work throughout the year to provide guidance and a rigorous challenge function to departments to advance policy, legislative and government administration proposals that are high quality, prepared in a timely manner and focused on addressing priority areas identified by the government.
The PCO's third priority is to enable the management and accountability of government. The PCO provides strategic advice on whole-of-government transformation initiatives, public service renewal, and other management reforms, which will ultimately contribute to sound government administration, enhanced productivity in the public service, and improved services to Canadians.
To this end, the PCO will support the Clerk of the Privy Council and the Deputy Minister Board of Management and Renewal in the identification of whole-of-government proposals to advance the government's priority for improved efficiency and effectiveness. In addition, the PCO will actively engage and collaborate with implicated departments and other central agencies in the implementation of these proposals.
In 2013, the Clerk of the Privy Council launched the Blueprint 2020 engagement process. As you may know, this process sought the input of all public servants on a clear vision for the future of the public service, and to determine what changes were necessary to make that future a reality. PCO will continue to support the clerk in order to achieve this vision, both across the public service and within PCO itself.
In addition, PCO will continue to provide advice and support to the Prime Minister and the Clerk of the Privy Council on the human resource management of senior leaders. This includes supporting the learning and development of senior leaders, undertaking succession planning and performance management, and supporting the Deputy Minister Committee of Senior Officials.
In keeping with the major transformational initiatives taking place across the public service, PCO's fourth and final priority is to strengthen the department’s own internal management practices.
During the year, the PCO will continue to support the Government of Canada's human resources modernization initiative, which aims to consolidate and enhance the delivery of human resource services across the government. This will be achieved in large part through the adoption of common human resource business processes and the implementation of further process improvements to deliver better human resource services to clients.
In addition, PCO will continue its efforts to implement the new directive on performance management to ensure that PCO has a high-performing and adaptable workforce. PCO will also support the Government of Canada's efforts to enhance information technology through the modernization of computer desktops, the implementation of the email transformation initiative, the establishment of government-wide secure network connectivity, and the consolidation of Government of Canada data centres. To that end, PCO will be working closely with its key IT business partner, Shared Services Canada.
Finally, PCO will implement the Government of Canada’s shared travel solutions initiative, as well as undertake a review of the department’s financial processes in order to align them with the Government of Canada’s financial business process modernization initiative.
In conclusion, it is through these initiatives and activities, done in support of PCO's four organizational priorities, that the department will be able to successfully fulfill its overall strategic outcome.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to explain the initiatives related to PCO's 2014-15 main estimates and our report on plans and priorities. We would be pleased to address your questions.
Thank you, Madame Doucet. That was a helpful presentation, I think, because I'm not sure there's a clear understanding amongst MPs, and certainly amongst the general public, of the full scope of the PCO's jurisdiction and what they do. It has been helpful to see at least the plans and priorities give an outline of what you see as your priorities.
I'm a little confused as to why Mr. Elcock would be with you regarding such a small aspect of what the PCO does, but he's certainly welcome, and we're certainly interested in the category that he oversees.
One worrisome thing about the estimates generally—and I'd like you to tell us a bit about this—is that there seems to be a trend towards more and more statutory appropriations and fewer and fewer voted. That trend puts more and more of government spending outside of the scrutiny and oversight of parliamentary committees, along with the ability to amend or decrease or vote on, in fact, that spending.
One of those areas I'd like to ask you about is in the supplementary estimates (B), and I thank our analysts for pointing this out. In those there was language that essentially transferred the office of Infrastructure Canada to be under the purview of the PCO. That's just my understanding. This is a massive shift, a $3.3-billion budget, $2 billion of which is statutory and only $1.3 billion of which is voted.
With all due respect, this is what I meant about bringing Mr. Elcock and his $1.2-million budget, while we've had no mention in your report on plans and priorities or your main estimates that the PCO has now transferred....
Let's just see the language there:
Pursuant to a decision by "The Executive" to position the Office of Infrastructure of Canada in a separate Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs portfolio, Order in Council P.C....transfers to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada the control and supervision of the portion of the federal public administration known as the Office of Infrastructure of Canada, effective July 15, 2013.
I'm not sure that we or the general public was aware of that substantial transfer to the PCO, to the Prime Minister's department. Can you explain where we see reference to that in your plans and priorities, what impact that's had on the PCO, and where we get the scrutiny and oversight that we desire for all of these expenditures?
It's a very good question. Thank you for the chance to speak to that.
I think as all of you will well appreciate, we are fortunate in this country. We have an elected government. We have a democratic system.
But governments can change. They reflect the will of the people. In order to ensure stability and continuity of government and to provide the best expertise possible, the public service exists. It is absolutely essential for the public service to be non-partisan to continue to ensure the stability of the country and to support the will of the people.
I think that one of the things folks might have a hard time understanding is how the PCO actually operates. What does this department that supports the actually do with our just over 800 folks? Maybe I'll take a few minutes to explain that.
Our main purpose is to provide advice. All departments provide advice to ministers. We are no different. Ministers can choose to take that advice or to disregard it. It is up to them. So we provide advice. I would say that's what a whole lot of people at PCO do, and they have different specialties. We have folks who are specialized in all of the domains that I spoke about in my opening remarks. For instance, we have a group that supports the on foreign and defence matters.
We have a group that supports the on making economic decisions. What would that include? That would include portfolios like transport, agriculture, and Industry Canada. When they have decisions that need to be made through the cabinet process, the Prime Minister needs advice on the questions that are being put to them. The Privy Council Office provides that advice.
The other thing those specialists also do is that we're organized in a way that supports the functions of the various cabinet committees and the subcommittees. There's a group that supports the Cabinet Committee on Priorities and Planning and the subcommittee that takes decisions on economic matters, like the ones I just talked about. Then there is the subcommittee that takes decisions on social matters. We have I think some of the best and brightest public servants in government working at the PCO, who support those committees and who work with other departments to make sure we play the challenge function when they have ideas that they want to put before the government.
There are two other things we do at the PCO that are of interest. One, there are the unique things that we do. We provide the with advice on the machinery of government, and government and council appointments, and we have a specialty in doing the paperwork to process the decisions made around that. That's unique to the Privy Council Office. Then finally, of course, there's the function that my branch does, which is internal services. Those are all centralized at the Privy Council Office. We don't have satellite internal services offices across the rest of the department. They're centralized in the group I lead.
Mr. Chairman, the problem of smuggling around the world is considerable. Canada is in some respects smaller than most other countries. If you visit some of the southeast Asian countries, the flows of people they have are in the hundreds of thousands and in some countries there are upwards of two or three million illegals.
There are very large flows, for example, if you look at the flows that Australia experienced up until very recently, in the last year they had something in the order of 20,000 people arriving by boat and about 350 boats. I forget the exact numbers but the number of people at the end of the year was about 20,000. That's a fairly substantial flow by maritime smuggling.
There are other flows north across the Mediterranean. There have been some maritime efforts to come to Canada and there still are some out there. You'll recall that two boats came here in 2009 and 2010. Our focus has been, to a large extent perhaps, ensuring that there aren't further maritime smuggling events, but we have also taken some interest in the other areas, such as the flow over the land border and through other areas.
Essentially my job is to try to coordinate the efforts of a number of departments. We work with four in particular on a day-to-day basis, but over a period of time we've worked with as many as five, six, eight, or ten departments. It depends on the issues we're dealing with at any time. Sometimes we're working with the Department of Transport; other times we're not. Sometimes we're working with the military; other times we're not. But we're concentrated with the RCMP, CBSA, and others in an effort to try to support their efforts, to coordinate their efforts with other various agencies to get the maximum bang for the buck, if you will. As distinct from those agencies simply doing their specific tasks, can we work together? Can those agencies work together and get a better effect for the dollar?
Obviously that involves working with departments and agencies here in Canada, but it also means working with agencies of other governments. We work very closely with the Australians, for example. We have some of their problems but by no means the same volume of flow as the Australian situation.
We also work with a number of other countries in Southeast Asia, working on the issue of people smuggling in that area, which ultimately could have some impact on Canada, and also in west Africa, in particular.
Since we have unanimous consent, I am going to group all the votes in the estimates into one vote here.
CANADA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC SERVICE
Vote 1—Canada School of Public Service—Program expenditures.......... $39,921,868
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
CANADIAN INTERGOVERNMENTAL CONFERENCE SECRETARIAT
Vote 1—Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat—Program expenditures.......... $5,548,958
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
CANADIAN TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION AND SAFETY BOARD
Vote 1—Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board—Program expenditures.......... $25,757,380
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
Vote 1—Governor General—Program expenditures, the grants listed in the Estimates and expenditures incurred on behalf of former Governors General.......... $17,150,426
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC SECTOR INTEGRITY COMMISSIONER
Vote 1—Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner—Program expenditures and contributions.......... $4,923,694
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
Vote 1—Privy Council—Program expenditures.......... $105,754,626
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
Vote 1—Public Service Commission—Program expenditures.......... $71,676,677
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
PUBLIC SERVICE LABOUR RELATIONS BOARD
Vote 1—Public Service Labour Relations Board—Program expenditures.......... $12,501,779
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
PUBLIC SERVICE STAFFING TRIBUNAL
Vote 1—Public Service Staffing Tribunal—Program expenditures.......... $4,891,908
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
PUBLIC WORKS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES
Vote 1—Public Works and Government Services—Operating expenditures for the provision of accommodation, common and central services......... $1,786,071,771
Vote 5—Public Works and Government Services—Capital expenditures.......... $759,963,628
(Votes 1 and 5 agreed to on division)
REGISTRY OF THE PUBLIC SERVANTS DISCLOSURE PROTECTION TRIBUNAL
Vote 1—Registry of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal—Program expenditures.......... $1,664,105
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
Vote 1—Shared Services Canada—Operating expenditures.......... $1,176,098,834
Vote 5—Shared Services Canada—Capital expenditures.......... $216,592,917
(Votes 1 and 5 agreed to on division)
Vote 1—The Senate—Program expenditures.......... $57,532,359
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
TREASURY BOARD SECRETARIAT
Vote 1—Treasury Board Secretariat—Program expenditures.......... $231,214,433
Vote 5—Government Contingencies—Subject to the approval of the Treasury Board, to supplement other appropriations and to provide for miscellaneous, urgent or unforeseen expenditures.......... $750,000,000
Vote 10—Government-Wide Initiatives—Subject to the approval of the Treasury Board, to supplement other appropriations in support of the implementation of strategic management initiatives.......... $3,193,000
Vote 20—Public Service Insurance—Payments, in respect of insurance, pension or benefit programs or other arrangements.......... $2,260,002,208
Vote 25—Operating Budget Carry Forward—Subject to the approval of the Treasury Board, to supplement other appropriations for the operating budget carry forward from the previous fiscal year.......... $1,600,000,000
Vote 30—Paylist Requirements—Subject to the approval of the Treasury Board, to supplement other appropriations for requirements related to parental and maternity allowances.......... $1,450,000,000
Vote 33—Capital Budget Carry Forward—Subject to the approval of the Treasury Board, to supplement other appropriations for purposes of the capital budget carry forward allowance from the previous fiscal year.......... $600,000,000
(Votes 1, 5, 10, 20, 25, 30 and 33 agreed to on division)
Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to address everyone this morning. I have a lot of content to cover so I'm going to jump right in.
I'm going to address some of the questions that I think are important to the committee's agenda.
I'll tell you a little bit about myself. I've had a bit of a “de-evolutionary” career. I started out on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley working for a firm called Credit Suisse First Boston. I repatriated back to Toronto to Bank of Montreal Nesbitt Burns, and JMP Securities. From there I went into the start-up world. Just as a quick overview of that—I won't even go into the stuff that I experienced on Wall Street and Bay Street—I'll focus more on some of my start-up investing and entrepreneurial activities.
For each of the logos you see on the screen, I was involved in the first start-up capital for each of those companies. Several of them went public. The only company that was an exception was a local Ottawa company, Bridgewater. I was involved in first capital for that business. Through Extreme Venture Partners we've been fortunate to have several exits. We sold a company to Google. Google has acquired five companies in the Toronto area alone over the last five years. We sold a company to Apple. That was Apple's first acquisition in Canada over the last 10 years. We sold a company to Salesforce.com, one of the Facebook billionaires. In total that has created about 1,000 high-tech jobs primarily in the downtown Toronto area, representing about $75 million to $80 million in annual salary.
I'll transition to talk a little bit about the app economy. This is a subject I've spoken about all over the world, including last year at the Milken Institute.
In Canada, a recent report published by the ICTC noted that the app economy had led to the creation of about 64,000 jobs and about $1.7 billion of revenue, which will grow to an estimated $5.2 billion by 2019. What's interesting about this statistic is that we often talk about the strength of the games industry in this country and the fact that it's the third-largest employer in the world, yet the actual app economy already dwarfs the number of jobs that exist in the gaming sector of the Canadian economy.
and I were fortunate enough to meet through a third party. Over the course of time, the minister found the courage to see that there was an opportunity to take this data in open data and present it to the world through a hackathon concept. It takes a bit of courage to be the Government of Canada and to be involved in something that's even called a hackathon. It has a bit of a strange name by it's very nature.
What we sought to do through this project called CODE, which stands for the Canadian Open Data Experience, was to create an event that would let the world know that this data—at data.gc.ca—exists and to talk to the opportunities that it represents.
We were fortunate enough to be partnered with a bunch of other individuals like OpenText, Colin from Google, as well as IBM—some amazing brands. XMG was involved because it's one of the companies I've been involved in starting up, and it's the company that's maybe closest to my heart, that I really love.
XMG was the creator of a hackathon called the Great Canadian Appathon. The Great Canadian Appathon has had four different iterations. We're on the fifth version. It's a national competition. It's the only one of its kind that unites all post-secondary colleges and universities. In the last GCA, we had over 35 colleges and universities participate across the country. The reason XMG does this and the reason I'm involved in this is that it's our way of giving back to the community, for those 1,000 jobs. We're a huge beneficiary of our phenomenal academic system in this country. The purpose of this competition was purely to educate students on how to develop code in a 48-hour competition. We never expected it to be as successful as it has been. If you do a quick search on it, you'll see that there have been hundreds and hundreds of points of media about this competition. It was really the foundation on which CODE was established.
We have a short video, but we can skip it. It hasn't been translated, in any event. It would just give us a flavour for what happened that weekend. You would see developers sleeping as they were working throughout the night. I have some pictures that I'll show in just a minute, which will hopefully do justice to the event.
When the minister and I started off on our little adventure of CODE, we were hoping to get 100 participants across the country and to really bring knowledge and awareness of this phenomenal treasure trove of data called open data.
The bittersweet result is that the Great Canadian Appathon is no longer the largest hackathon in Canadian history, but that's because CODE is now the largest hackathon in history, or at least in this country's history, with over 930 participants, 290 teams, and 110 apps created that weekend.
As you see in this next graphic, which is a geographical representation, we had participants from coast to coast in an amazing geographical distribution from B.C. all the way to the east coast in Newfoundland. I'm very happy with the result.
The next slide talks to an event we did on the Friday of that weekend. On that Friday, we brought in experts—again, from our sponsors, and people who were industry experts from all over the world—to basically educate the participants about open data and about the different opportunities. I gave a presentation myself about how to visualize this data, because data in its raw form is very difficult to consume, but the human interface is very important. Shown here are snapshots of the different participants from McKinsey and so on.
At 111 Richmond Street in downtown Toronto—also the offices for Google—there's a big data accelerator. This is where the participants, at least 100 or so of them, got together for a very intense weekend of coding. The result at the end of the weekend was some really good products and applications. It was a very intense time period for everybody.
I want to switch to why open data has such awesome potential, in my humble opinion. This next slide is a graphic that comes from McKinsey. It talks to the potential economic impact of open data. You may have seen this in the past. It came out in September or October of last year, in that timeframe. The statistic here talks about $3 trillion in global economic impact of open data. That's trillion with a T, and it's a significant number. I want to talk a bit about what's driving this.
In the next slide, ”The Power of Open Source”, you'll see a bunch of graphics and images. I just want to touch on what these graphics are. Linux is the kernel upon which Android is based. It's an open source project that was openly developed by developers all over the world. MySQL is a database product that is the most popular database product in the world. About 25% of the world's databases use MySQL. The “W” shown here stands for WordPress. A tremendous number of the world's websites use WordPress. Mozilla is an open-source product; their CTO resides in Toronto. Wikipedia is the one that we all know very well.
In the next slide, we talk about the power of crowdsourcing. You may be familiar with Kickstarter, which is a venture capital type of phenomenon in which people's products are funded by the community. One thing you may not know is that Twitter has been a tremendous beneficiary of the crowdsourcing phenomenon. I'll give you some examples: “trending” and ”what's trending”, hashtags, and even the word “tweet” itself are all from the community.
There was one interesting point when Twitter tried to stop people from using the word “tweet”. They actually said, no, it's not “tweet”; it's “Twitter”. They eventually gave in and trademarked the word “tweet” and it is what it is today. Twitter is an unusual beneficiary. It's such a popular product that the users have been a large reason for why it's so successful.
A local example is Goldcorp. In the 2005 and 2006 time period, it had all this geological data. This may be something that you're already familiar with, but it's a tremendous story. They had this geological data, but they were running out of funds. The company was about a $100-million market cap company at the time. Then what happened was that they put out a half-a-million-dollar competition and put all their geological information out there on the web. Then some developers in Australia actually determined where the gold was located. Today, Goldcorp is the second most valuable gold company in this country.
Locationary is the company that Apple acquired last year. My best friend from university was actually the CEO of that company. When Locationary was acquired by Apple, they had 6.5 billion data sets about location information. Not only would this particular service say “this is the Parliament building and this is the GPS latitude and longitude”, it would say whether or not there was Wi-Fi and whether there was accessible parking, and all of the other deeper pieces of information that you just don't find in the Yellow Pages.
If you've been watching what's been happening with the Malaysian airlines story recently, you've seen that the people of the world have all contributed to try to go through the satellite information to help determine the location of that particular tragedy.
Open data combines the best of both open source and crowdsourcing. It's interesting that the root word for both is source and that's why, I think, it has very interesting potential. However, before I turn to this next slide—probably my favourite two slides in the presentation are coming up now—if you have all this data, yet you do not have applications in which to present them, then there is unfortunately.... How can you get utility out of it?
When you look at entertainment on a per hour basis, you'll see that the reason apps are so successful is you'll look at movies at two hours at $12.50 or $13.50 for your experience. That's $6.25 an hour. You can all do the math for these different things. When you talk about an app like Angry Birds and you're getting 20 hours of experience for a dollar application, you're talking about pennies per hour in terms of the cost of entertainment.
This next slide I'll skip through very quickly, but it shows you.... If you look at the bottom graphic, it took AOL nine years to get to one million users; Facebook, nine months; and this app called Draw Something, nine days.
Just last week, I was part of the committee that was put together to put in a report for the Ontario government on their open data initiative. I'm happy to talk about those results in the Q and A. That's the most recent and comprehensive report on open data. It was published last Thursday and the URL is indicated there. I would encourage you to look at it. We did look at best practices around the world, and I'll try to address the answers to these questions during the Q and A, out of respect for time.
In conclusion I would say that the Canadian government is one of the world leaders when it comes to open data. Certainly within Canada there are some pockets of leadership: the City of Edmonton, the B.C. government. I did study the U.K. government, the Australian government, the Indian government—a whole bunch of governments around the world—to see where we stand.
Lastly, I know transparency is really important to a lot of people in this room and Canadians, but I see the biggest impact is in productivity. We can elaborate on that in the question and answer period.
Thank you for your time.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and honourable members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.
I just want to recognize the work that Ray has put into advancing open data in Canada. He mentioned the success of CODE and the efforts of his hackathon, but really his team has put a lot of effort into it. It's really through his dedication that the hackathon was a success and that we've moved forward to this part. I'm glad to be sharing a table with him
Ray closed off with productivity, to which I'll largely be speaking today—the use of open data and government data by both individuals and members of the private sector to create businesses and increase the productivity of Canadian businesses. There's real promise inherent in making government data open to individuals, groups, and businesses. As Ray hinted, with the right data and effective analysis, individuals can make better choices about their education, their health care, home purchases, investing in their businesses, and even such mundane tasks as their restaurant choices.
We now live in a world where a free and open Internet can connect every Canadian to the data, services, communities, and customers we value no matter where in the world. That's important. We're talking about technology and networks that allow Canadian businesses and Canadians as citizens to make contact with their colleagues and their counterparts around the world. Data-driven innovation, the ability to derive insight and influence decision-making, is now available to us all. Government data can inform and guide our decisions as individuals, businesses, and governments, especially when it's correlated with experience in other countries and compared with data available from other governments.
I'm very glad to see this committee taking an interest in making government data open and available to all. I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to your discussion.
Let's take a moment to remember life as it was before we had access to these networks, tools, and data. Think about weather forecasts. You could find them in three places: the upper right-hand corner of the morning newspaper, the 6:30 p.m. local news broadcasts, and on the radio on the nines or on the elevens, depending on where you lived. Now stop and think, when the last time was you were caught in a rain shower or truly surprised by a sudden snowfall—last Sunday excepted.
What about maps? Remember the epic Griswold family-style vacations, paper map in hand and near daily confusion about which turn to take on the highway? Today who doesn't have immediate access to traffic and construction data about any route they choose to take today or tomorrow?
Obviously, both weather and maps are shining examples of how government data, when used imaginatively and taking full advantage of today's technology, can have a significant impact on how we live our everyday lives. An important point is that I've described consumer experiences to you, but technology has greater impact and creates greater efficiencies among our businesses who depend on weather and traffic reports to run really efficient logistics chains.
In Canada we often look to our past when setting economic goals. We're global grain exporters, we're lumber barons, we're nickel magnates, we're car manufacturers, we're telecom giants. Thanks to data, technology, and the Internet, these industries are being revolutionized and new ones are being created, as Ray mentioned. Stop and ask a farmer how weather forecasting, local mapping, soil analysis to a square metre, and market forecasts have changed their business.
I'd like to bring up the example of the famine early warning system, which is a 25-year-old project by organizations like the national oceanic administration in the United States and NASA. They use data that they collect through satellites to anticipate drought, subsequent agricultural market collapse, and famine conditions in 35 developing countries, all by analyzing bundles of government data and making that available for free, and publicly, to those 35 developing nations.
Similarly, researchers used 10 terabytes of data on mobile phone usage in Rwanda to understand the role that mobile phone payments play in the Rwandan economy and the social patterns of payment sharing within those communities.
Ray mentioned some numbers around how much of an impact open data can have on your economy. The open data provided by the U.S. National Weather Service supports a private weather industry worth over $1.5 billion per year. Here in Canada, Pelmorex and others run similar services available to consumers and businesses.
When the government decides to open up its data to public review, analysis, and reimagination—importantly, “reimagination”—it effectively asks the community how that data can be used better.
Local entrepreneurs use it to create transit apps, track infrastructure investment—or infrastructure non-investment, in many cases—and better understand the economic, social, and security challenges in their neighbourhoods.
In making economic, market, and scientific data available, businesses can make more informed decisions about their investments, their products, and the markets they choose to enter, both in Canada and internationally. Open data helps translate individual initiative; that is, the sort of person who obsessively attends an appathon, a hackathon, has an idea about a social policy or an economic policy challenge, and wants to use the data available to derive insight and deliver a product to their consumer. They translate that initiative into business opportunities, into jobs, into that most elusive of economic drivers: innovation. After all, that's why we're all very excited about appathons and hackathons. They're the very representation of an innovative spirit and a concentrated energy.
Now, what does that mean in terms of real economic impact? The European Commission estimates the aggregate direct and indirect impact from open data applications in use across the EU is 140 billion euros a year. It's important to remember that's direct and indirect, because within that we have both the direct impact for the consumer, businesses, as well as the productivity gains, as well as the efficiency gains across both consumer and business applications.
Open data also sets the stage for greater efficiency in other government programs. In both the United Kingdom and the United States, the government is looking to health data as a source of inspiration for better program management and improved citizen services. How do you overlay data about infection rates in clinics versus length of stay at hospitals, versus frequency of infections to viruses, and then derive insight on how you anticipate health challenges within society, and therefore reduce the long-term costs of reacting to those health care challenges, rather than simply being in a reactive health care system?
As I noted earlier, innovation and entrepreneurship are at the heart of any strategy based on open data. Gone are the days when government held data close to its chest, developed a range of options, and advocated within Ottawa's own hallways for the best course of action in the face of a given policy challenge. Given access to the same information, community members can often do this in a more effective, more innovative, and less costly manner than the government could on its own.
The role of government then, in my opinion, is to develop open data policies that will best serve those outside of government, who are best placed to make use of open data, maximizing its value to the public. As I see it, there are three main elements to ensuring that an open data policy will be robust and effective.
First, open data initiatives with strong political and bureaucratic support achieve higher maturity and better results. Ray mentioned that he was working on the Government of Ontario's open data plan, and mentioned examples in other countries. I differ slightly with him in that I see that the U.S. and the U.K. are considered leaders on open data policy. Both countries have committed substantial resources to the pursuit of open data and have placed responsibility for driving these policies in the hands of senior members of the executive. They are transparent about their goals and their success in achieving them.
The good news—as Ray points out—is that Canada is catching up. Though we started work later than the U.K. and the U.S., we are making progress in encouraging the private and public sector to take advantage of open data. The federal government's data portal hosts close to 200,000 data sets. It is engaged with the international Open Government Partnership and signed on to the G-8 open data charter. Just last month, it committed $3 million to a new Open Data Institute. In Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Montreal we see that municipal data is empowering transit infrastructure and democracy activists. The governments of British Columbia and Ontario are taking concrete steps to build relevant open data strategies for their citizens.
The second essential element of open data policy is fairly straightforward: make the data useful. I mentioned 200,000 data sets. You'd be hard pressed to identify a number that people actually find relevant to their policy challenges. Open data needs to be relevant and accessible. The government needs to focus its efforts on identifying and making available the kind of data that generates the most interest from users and will have an impact.
It's certainly worth highlighting that any open data needs to be regularly updated. Innovators, whether in the community or in business, need to know that the core data they are basing their projects on will not slowly grow obsolete.
Last, but certainly not least, the third key element is encouraging user participation through appathons, through hackathons. But importantly, it boils down to making sure that the people who use the data are able to contribute to policy discussions that affect their lives over the long term.
As this committee considers the value of open data and how Canada should move forward on open data policy, I encourage you to keep these key elements in mind. Obviously, I could speak for hours on open data, but in the interest of time, I'll wrap up my remarks with one closing thought.
From my point of view—and obviously I represent Google, and I represent somewhat of an exceptional point of view—Canada is in the process of economic transformation. Data innovation is fuelling innovation in every sector of our economy, from the most traditional resource industries to our world-leading health care providers. In the past six months two Canadian online platforms have been valued at over $1 billion. These are companies that did not exist six years ago. The government has traditionally had the resources and interest to invest in data sets with economic and social relevance to all Canadians and in specialized data that is extremely valuable to specific industries. It must recognize that, by dedicating the resources to unlocking this data and making it easily available to all, it could trigger innovation at home, in our community, and across our business community.
Thank you so much for that. I apologize for how fast I went through all that information.
This will also connect to the question Mr. Martin asked about how we can enable the maximum benefit of this whole initiative for the government and citizens.
One of the things I wanted to communicate by crowdsourcing, that whole concept of putting it out there to the crowd, is that as long as you can provide us the information and the data, the community will find a way to exploit and make use of this data. That's the power of crowdsourcing. That's the power of hackathons, because you do not know what they will come up with.
I want to tell you about some of the applications that came as a result of this CODE event.
One young woman from the University of Toronto created an application that measures all the air quality, carbon dioxide, etc., in every city across the country. Another person made an application targeted at immigrants. It allowed them to look at their education and their demographic, and decide where in Canada it would be optimal for them to immigrate. Another application I worked on looked at tuition costs across the country. You could see how much a psychology degree costs at the University of Calgary, how much it was at another university on the east coast, and the average salaries for a student coming from those programs, so that you could determine your return on tuition investment.
Colin touched on the opportunities with some examples. I was smiling during his presentation. Some of the things he said were quite profound, if he had the time to explain them further. The number of little ideas that can emerge from open data is way beyond the imagination of everyone in this room. I assure you of this. We need to do some things to help this happen.
Colin also mentioned that a bunch of the data sets are not that useful in a sense, and that is true. We went through thousands of the data sets to highlight 50 or 60 that would be useful. The more the data sets can be in real time, the more useful they will be for the users.
The government is already working toward other things like the unification of standards. These things are of critical importance.