Mr. Chair, committee members, I thank you for the opportunity to address the committee today.
This short presentation will cover three areas. First, I will briefly explain how Statistics Canada is adopting the principles of open data in our dissemination practices. Second, I will explain how our agency is contributing to the Government of Canada open data portal. Finally, I will explain our role as a service provider for data.gc.ca.
Clearly the concept of open data is a natural fit with our agency's mandate. Providing our data free of cost, free of barriers to redistribution, and the machine-readable formats allow us to make our output more accessible to data users. Over the years we have steadily moved to increase the amount of free statistical information found on the Statistics Canada website, which is our main dissemination vehicle. In February of 2012 our organization took an important step by making all standard data on the web available free of charge. We also adopted an open licence framework and eliminated all royalty fees, even for custom data tabulations.
Since then visits to the Statistics Canada website have increased by over 20% and web traffic to the CANSIM application, which is our main output database of socio-economic data, has doubled for that application.
I will now move on to talk about our contribution to the Government of Canada open data portal. It is our approach that all standard aggregate downloadable data that are found on the Statistics Canada website should also be discoverable through data.gc.ca. To date, we have registered 5,400 data sets to the portal, which represents approximately 72% of the general non-geospatial data sets.
The data sources include census population, the national household survey, census of agriculture, output from our CANSIM database, our summary tables, industry and occupation classification files, and most of our geographic reference files. Monthly international trade data will become available to the open data portal in the next couple of months, and more classification files and geographic files will also be loaded over the course of the next year.
We do have evidence that data users are accessing our data sets via the open data portal. From the CANSIM database alone, we know that about 6,000 download requests were generated from data.gc.ca.
I know you've heard about the recent Canadian open data experience, hackathon or codefest, in which students, entrepreneurs and developers focused on building applications with data found on the open data portal. During this event our data sets were accessed approximately 1,500 times, which was more than any other federal department. Of the 15 finalists in this event, seven used data from Statistics Canada.
These are some examples that demonstrate to us that our data sets are, indeed, reaching a new audience through data.gc.ca.
The last slide explains the role of Statistics Canada as a service provider for the open data portal. In addition to our role as a main data contributor, you are aware that the second generation portal was launched last June, but you may not be aware that Statistics Canada plays a role behind the scenes for the portal's system development and technical support operations. This service delivery is governed by a memorandum of understanding with Treasury Board Secretariat, which is our client in this endeavour.
Mr. Chair, this concludes my remarks. I'd be happy to take any questions committee members may have when you get to that point.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and good morning to the committee members and my colleagues from the department.
My name is Pierre Ferland, and I am the chief information officer at NRCan. I am accompanied by Prashant Shukle, director general of the Earth Sciences Sector.
This is my first appearance before you, and it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with you about our experience with open data and to answer your questions.
If you know the history of NRCan going to back to the origins of it in 1842, the creation of the geological survey commission has always been about developing information for purposes of dissemination to Canadians in businesses, so, for us, the concept of open data is a natural extension to that. It's a new channel, essentially. It started with maps and survey reports and it expanded to more information, so we've always been strong supporters of open data.
We recently participated in the CODE experiment, the Canadian Open Data Experience exercise, and one of our data sets, specifically, in this case, the vehicle fuel consumption, was used in collaboration with information from transport to create one of the top 20 apps. It was called CAN Fuel.
We publish open data on the topics of forestry, mining and extraction, and energy efficiency, but of course—as referred to by my colleague from Stats—one of our core products is in the geomatics area and maps, and I will let my colleague Prashant tell you more about this and our experience there.
Mr. Chair and committee members…
first, let me explain that geo-data is the basic geographic or geoscience data that describes Canada’s land mass. Some notable examples of this kind of information include geological information about where mines are and where you can find particular mineral deposits. There are topographic maps. For those of you who have cottages, you have probably used these topographic maps, which include data about things like water, lakes, roads, elevation, and all kinds of important data points that are becoming increasingly important in an open data environment.
The key distinguishing aspect of these data is that they are all defined by a location or position on the earth. Additionally, they are often relevant in multiple applications, ranging from property rights, to government policy decisions, to regulatory decisions, to environmental assessments, to estimating resource potential, and even right down to in-car GPS navigation, making sure that the pizza guy gets to the house within 20 minutes.
In the early days, the most useful form possible generally meant recording this kind of data on paper maps. Over time, we progressed to managing our geo-data holdings in NRCan as digital files on computers, although the final product was still paper maps.
I want to give recognition to Canadian leadership in this regard. Roger Tomlinson actually invented geographic information systems back in NRCan in 1964, so we've had a leadership role internationally and helped to spawn and create a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide.
Today, we make raw digital data, also known as machine-readable data, accessible over the Internet in forms that can be manipulated, combined, and transformed according to need. This is really at the hub of the concept of big data and big data analytics. Many departments and agencies make significant investments to collect and manage their geospatial information, but for various reasons, barriers exist that have prevented the timely sharing and integration of this information across the federal family and with partners. That's why we welcome the open data initiative.
Working together across government, the federal committee on geomatics and earth observations—the FCGEO, as it's called—is an ADM-level committee consisting of 21 departments and agencies working in very close collaboration with Treasury Board and the chief information officer, who's been directing overall government efforts with respect to open data under the guidance of . What we've been doing is working to break down barriers and capitalize on the full potential of the government’s geospatial data and holdings.
The Federal Committee on Geomatics and Earth Observations, the FCGEO, consists of producers and/or consumers of geospatial data that are voluntarily collaborating in this broad federal effort. They have adopted an inclusive, open and transparent approach with each other in the interest of not just the federal government, but for the benefit of all Canadians. Recognition of the power and potential of new technologies and media, and of the importance of authoritative, open data to Canada's knowledge economy and global competitiveness was also key to moving this initiative forward.
Together, we are currently working towards a federal geospatial platform that will make federal government geo-data available through the government's open data portal, as well as support the sharing and reuse of data within the government.
With more than 10 years of experience in open geo-data, and one of the first public organizations in the world in the geospatial space to go open, NRCan's earth sciences sector has learned many lessons, although please remember our starting point that Pierre talked about. It goes back to 1842. It's been really hard work.
The work of surveyors and mappers really took a very structured and disciplined approach to how it is we collected the data, how it is we managed the data, and how it is we made it accessible. So there was a very highly structured approach that made it usable and actually facilitated the value-added dimension to the digital data we now produce.
NRCan has always intended that the geo-data it collects and manages be used by governments, industries, and citizens. Let me give you a practical example. The surveyors that went out in the old Department of the Interior, which preceded NRCan, actually helped us define our boundaries. It helped us shape our country, so it was absolutely essential that we communicated that to Canadians and to the world generally. It helped define our borders.
Coming back to the open data portal, NRCan was the principal contributor to the Government of Canada's open data portal pilot project when it was launched in March 2011 as part of the open government strategy. More than 90% of the available open data at that time was geospatial, originating from NRCan.
What has producing open data meant for NRCan? First, we've actually realized some savings because we don't need to have physical storage space or a vast distribution network to disseminate our physical products. We make our products, our data, available to such key players as Google and Google is able to disseminate our data in Google maps. It uses our data.
I understand you had Colin McKay before you a few weeks back. Colin would say that the partnership of Google and NRCan is one of the best partnerships they have between a federal government and Google.
However, there are new costs for maintaining servers, bandwidths, licences, and for uploading data files.
We have learned that accessible, free data are very much in demand. For example, geo-data downloads were less than one million a year in 2007 from our GeoGratis website and are now in the order of five million downloads last year, plus another two and a half million from our federal, provincial, territorial GeoBase website.
Just to recap, it was less than a million before we went open and between five and seven million after we went open, not of access points or hits, but downloads of our geospatial data. They're impressive numbers, but they're not downloads of interesting pictures or video clips. Most of these downloads are very large, complex data sets that are accompanied by detailed metadata. This means that they're most likely downloaded purposefully by someone who has the tools and the technology to manipulate the data and who sees potential benefit from reuse and packaging.
These data sets are complex in nature and as a result the file formats used are not always simple and not always open. We use open standards as much as possible, such as those from the International Organization for Standardization, more commonly known as ISO, or the international Open Geospatial Consortium, more commonly known as OGC, but we also make use of industry standards. Many historical products are only available as scans because that's all we have. Technically, it's not open data, but we make this information publicly available nonetheless.
While the download statistics indicate the geo-data are considered useful, the economic or social impact of geo-data reuse can be difficult to quantify. I also understand that you had a witness from the McKinsey group who also appeared and estimated the value, or at least in the American context identified it, if I remember correctly, as $3 trillion, if I'm not mistaken. Because it is open data, you don't really track the reuse potential all the way to its logical extension, so it's really difficult to quantify that number, but we're trying.
As a result, quantitatively understanding the clients and their level of satisfaction is difficult. Nonetheless, we have received much positive feedback from the clients about what we have available, but they usually want more. Interestingly, we have also seen an increased demand for older, historic products.
Conceptually, we accept that if the original data acquisition was judged to provide value for money, any additional reuse can only compound the benefits. To better understand the impact of open data, we are currently evaluating the impact of open geo-data in the marketplace.
Another area where we're learning lessons is in providing a simple way for users to easily find and access what they want. As more and more data sets become available through single portals, it becomes more difficult for the user to find that needle in the haystack.
In addition to the economic benefits of open data, our statistics show a lot of reuse of the data within the federal family. The ongoing broad-based engagement efforts of the Federal Committee on Geomatics and Earth Observations has been worth it. Current standards and approaches and those under development are the key to enabling accessibility and interoperability of the data and will enable future breakthroughs.
In closing, I want to reiterate that, from NRCan's perspective, our deliberate and intentional move towards open data was not simple, nor was it accomplished in the last few years. In fact, we've been working on it through most of our history, long before the Internet community introduced the phrase to describe the concept. Yet the journey in the Internet age has been definitely worthwhile, and we're beginning to see substantial benefits and new opportunities arising from our efforts.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you, and we'd be happy to take any questions.
Good morning, Mr. Chair, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to present Citizenship and Immigration Canada's (CIC) participation in the open data portal.
As many of you might know already, CIC's data differ somewhat from much of the other data available on the Government of Canada's open data portal, due to the nature of our work. Using our data, we produce statistics, be they on permanent and temporary residents coming to Canada, grants of citizenship to new Canadians, or the processing of those applications. The personal nature of this information makes our data sets popular but also limits the amount and type of data we may make available. We take seriously our responsibilities to protect personal information and ensure the appropriate treatment of information. For example, the department aggregates our data to protect personal information, which I will speak about in a few minutes.
Based on the requests for CIC data that we received before we even began to post them on the open data site, and from current requests, we gather that parties interested in our data typically include prospective permanent or temporary residents, immigration consultants, lawyers, researchers, interest groups, corporations, members of the media, other federal departments, and provincial and municipal governments.
Treasury Board statistics show that while more than half of the clients downloading our data sets reside in Canada, a large number also are from abroad, with many of them in India, the United States, Pakistan, China, the United Kingdom, and Brazil. Given that our most popular data sets relate to permanent resident applications processed abroad, processing times, and permanent resident overseas inventories, we expect that many of our overseas clients are persons who have applied to come to Canada as immigrants or who are considering doing so.
The CIC data sets that are part of the open data initiative were originally released by the department on October 1, 2009, before the initiative was launched. These files, all part of CIC's Quarterly Administrative Data Release on CIC's own website, were disseminated at that time through an interactive interface that was published on a DVD and distributed via courier to anyone who requested one.
However, in light of and thanks to Canada's action plan initiative on open government to help the public find, download, and use Government of Canada data, our data sets are now made available on the open data site—www.data.gc.ca—as of July 1, 2011. We were one of the initial departments that participated in the pilot before even the launch of the open data site.
Currently, CIC has 37 tables on the open data site. These tables provide information about CIC's operations overseas and in Canada, the number of permanent and temporary residents admitted to Canada, and data also related to grants of citizenship to new Canadians. All data sets are made available as Microsoft Excel files, a common format, as you might know, useful for a large number of potential users and consistent with past updates. Thirty of the 37 data sets—very recently we were able to do this—are also being made available in machine-readable format, as comma-separated values, CSV, in order to offer users a version of the data that can be more easily incorporated into other applications. This CSV format, I understand, increases the interoperability of CIC's data sets.
The 37 data sets selected and posted by CIC are a mixture of tables that provide to Canadians and other people in other countries a broad background for the work CIC does and data on the number of temporary and permanent residents coming to Canada. These tables are a mix of those that are commonly requested of us by the public and those that we believe provide a useful overview of the work of the department.
Most ad hoc requests for CIC data are subject to the cost recovery requirements set out in section 314 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. Other requests for data are received through the ATIP process. These are outside of the open data concept. By regularly updating and posting popular data sets on the open data site, CIC enables public access to these data easily, quickly, and at no charge.
Since CIC began making available its data sets on the open data portal, our data have been consistently among the most accessed on the site. This past March, five out of the top 10 data sets downloaded from the open data portal, and eight of the top 15, were from CIC. Of particular interest to the public were data sets on permanent resident application processing, in which we provide data on the number of applications approved and refused, and the processing times, etc.
The limitations l referred to earlier come from the personal nature, as you might have understood, of much of the data we make available. Of primary concern to us is that we protect people's privacy. While the data are ultimately derived from personal information from client applications, we only report aggregate numbers. Our challenge mainly is to make this data available in a manner that's as useful as possible, while also not releasing any information that can identify an individual.
As part of the Government of Canada's open data community, CIC representatives, namely, members of my team, regularly take part in open data working group meetings organized by our colleagues at the Treasury Board Secretariat, where we work with a number of other government departments to improve open data's visibility and usefulness.
The hackathon was mentioned already. We did participate very actively as well in that event, which I take as only the beginning of such events, with many more to come.
We see the open data initiative, to conclude, as being beneficial to the government, to Canadians, and to people around the world. For CIC, it allows us to distribute our data sets to a broad audience efficiently, and reduces the number of ad hoc requests that the department receives. For the public, it makes available data on citizenship, permanent and temporary resident processing, admissions to Canada, and information that has been shown to be both popular and useful.
Thank you for the time you have given me today.
Good morning and thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am Guylaine Montplaisir, the chief information officer for Health Canada.
It is a great privilege for me to be here today. I want to thank you for the opportunity to present the Health Canada approach and progress to date with open data.
I am pleased to report that Health Canada's open data efforts have led to the release of 71 data sets which are currently on data.gc.ca. This number fluctuates relatively dynamically as we clean the data sets submitted and add new ones.
Out of all government departments, Health Canada has the sixth highest number of data sets published on the open data portal. The majority of these data sets are related to drug products, natural health products, nutrient value of common foods, medical devices, adverse reactions and notices of compliance.
Health Canada is extremely pleased that some of our published data sets were used in the recent CODE event, the Canadian Open Data Experience appathon, and one of the applications that was placed among the finalists—it was called Munchables—was developed using Health Canada's data set on nutrient values and common foods. The application, if it were ever to be used, would actually enable Canadians to make better decisions about the food they eat and to make healthy food choices, which is one of our goals.
At the outset, Health Canada focused its efforts on publishing data sets that were already readily available on our other Health Canada sites. Our initial approach to identifying data sets for publication to the open data portal was to rely heavily on subject matter experts across our organization to come forward with data they wished to publish. Our approach evolved over time to the point that we're now actively seeking and soliciting data sets from the program areas, especially in high-value categories such as those that were identified in annex B of the G-8 Open Data Charter in June 2013.
We continue to reach out directly to program areas to identify additional data sets.
In summer 2013, Health Canada undertook the development of a vision document to guide future activities around open government, including open data. This effort intended to generate engagement and conversations about open government within the organization. This document outlines proposed approaches to finding data, such as soliciting input from stakeholders, evaluating web statistics to determine visits and searches of our Internet sites, and analysis of past access to information requests received. A full-year analysis of our web statistics placed the Canada Food Guide and the drug product database among the top searches.
Our vision clearly articulates Health Canada's commitment to open government. That means a commitment to foster greater health program transparency by the Government of Canada, the health regulator; provide Canadians with opportunities to participate in federal health policy development; steer innovation in health and life sciences; and ultimately encourage Canadians to make better informed decisions about their health.
The document also clearly enunciates a number of guiding principles, those most relevant to our open data agenda being openness, quality first, and stewardship.
On the openness front, we will strive to improve data and information sharing within and between organizations and cultivate a culture of “open by default” to dismantle silos and expand the data and information that is shared publicly.
On the quality first front, the data and other electronic information that we release to the Canadian public will be prioritized, easy to understand, and published in a convenient, machine-readable format that supports reuse. When we started publishing to the portal, when the first version of the portal was created, we were publishing in the format that the data existed in. Today, because we want to be open by default, we create the information in the format that is machine-readable. Today, 60% of our data is published in the format of CSV, comma-separated values.
On stewardship, the third principle, our plan will focus on building the long-term infrastructure and capacity to identify, manage, and make available the data that is solicited and captured by Health Canada on behalf of the Canadian public while fulfilling mandated responsibilities and activities.
In order to successfully implement the open government directive once it becomes effective this summer, Health Canada will establish a number of essential operational conditions, such as: putting in place an operational mechanism for the rigorous analysis of information and data that will respect to privacy, confidentiality, security and ownership before the data is placed in the public domain; maintaining an enterprise data set inventory, and we have already begun doing so; and establishing a process with the active participation of all program areas to help facilitate and prioritize their release. We will also recognize the need for sound identification and evaluation processes.
Going forward, Health Canada will continue to explore options to increase the availability of data on data.gc.ca. Work will be undertaken to facilitate the integration of Health Canada data with other sources such as energy projects data and weather data, which affect health.
This data will serve as the basis for applications that private industry can develop and make available to the public for use at home and on mobile devices. We will look to improve access to our data through the implementation of an application program interface for our more dynamic datasets, such as
recalls in safety—in good French—
to ensure Canadians have access to our most current data on an ongoing basis.
We will also continue to provide timely responses to stakeholder feedback with regard to the open data sets Health Canada has posted to the open data portal.
We will continue to identify data themes or clusters and prioritize their release, as part of the forthcoming open government action plan 2.0. Identifying and prioritizing data themes and clusters for public release will be based on two main principles: relevance to the Health Canada mandate and strategic outcomes; and responsiveness to what Canadians want and need to know.
Accordingly, analysis of the program alignment architecture and the strategic outcomes, as outlined in the Health Canada report on plans and priorities, will be the basis for categorizing information and data content. Stakeholder information needs will continue to be informed by environmental intelligence gathered from ongoing business operations, including stakeholder feedback, web metrics analysis, social media monitoring, as well as information release and analysis from our key international counterparts.
Mr. Chair, that concludes my opening remarks.
I appreciate the opportunity to be before the committee and am ready to address any questions you may have.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
I am pleased to appear before you today to discuss Transport Canada's open data practices and related contributions to the Government of Canada's open data portal.
With me today is Kash Ram, director general, motor vehicle safety directorate.
As you may know, Transport Canada was an early contributor to the open data portal. In 2011, the civil aviation aircraft registry data set was selected for publication as part of the portal pilot initiative. Today, Transport Canada has nine published data sets on the portal, which are freely available for download and use by all Canadians. These sets provide citizens with easily accessible, high-quality data that relates to a variety of Transport Canada programs.
Six of the data sets pertain to our motor vehicle safety program. They are the vehicle recalls database, vehicle recalls-last 60 days, the national collision database, the listing of vehicle manufacturers registered with Transport Canada, and both appendix F and appendix G of the pre-clearance list of recognized vehicle importers.
Two of the data sets pertain to the marine mode. They are the Canadian register of large vessels, and the Canadian register of small commercial vessels. One data set pertains to air transportation, which is the previously mentioned civil aviation aircraft registry.
In terms of the strategy pursued by Transport Canada for identifying potential candidate data sets to be published on the open data portal, given that the department has traditionally had a significant presence on the Internet, our strategy has naturally entailed leveraging information that is publicly available on our external website. We have also given priority consideration to data sets proposed by the Treasury Board Secretariat and by departmental business units.
In addition to public availability, other factors such as citizen and stakeholder demand for the information have been taken into account. For example, citizens had expressed an interest for data on subjects such as reportable motor vehicle collisions that occur on public roads in Canada, and this is among the reasons for our publication of several data sets relating to the motor vehicle safety program.
The department exercises due diligence prior to releasing data for public consumption. In each instance, consultations are held with the responsible business unit to determine the scope of the data and ensure that the data set can be released under the open government licence. All data sets considered for publication are then also closely reviewed for accuracy and to ensure that no sensitive content is present. As part of our rigorous multi-step validation process, business units are first required to verify the data and to certify that there is no security, privacy, or other restrictions that apply.
Our experience to date using the open data portal has been positive. Canadians have provided some feedback on the data that we have made available by submitting inquiries online via the portal. Although statistics are limited, our data has been viewed and downloaded hundreds of times and at the recent Canadian Open Data Experience national hackathon, Transport Canada was 15th for the most downloads of the 36 departments represented.
We also have noted that despite the prior availability of certain information, the publication of some data sets has resulted in a reduction in a number of public enquiries directed at the department in relation to the national collision database, and a simplified process for providing biweekly updates on vehicle recall data was devised and implemented.
Moving forward, Transport Canada intends to continue supporting the open data portal by actively assessing and publishing new data sets that provide quality data in relation to all areas of transportation that fall under the departmental mandate.
Thank you for your attention. We would be pleased to take any questions you may have.
Thank you. Good morning.
On behalf of the Canadian Institute for Health Information, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee.
For the last 20 years, CIHI, as we're known, has played a unique role in Canada's health sector. As a government-funded but independent not-for-profit organization that provides essential information on our health system and the health of Canadians, our vision is simple: better data, better decisions, healthier Canadians.
Our mandate is to lead the development and maintenance of comprehensive and integrated health information that enables sound policy and effective health system management. Our strategic plan commits us to improving the comprehensiveness, quality, and availability of our data to support population health and health system decision making and to ensure its effective use. With our data access strategy, we ensure that our data is accessible to users through a number of ways in a timely manner.
CIHI is a data custodian for a wide variety of data on different aspects of the health system, including health services, quality of care, health expenditures, health care providers, and patient safety. Since our inception, and with input from our many stakeholders across the country, we have helped improve the depth and breadth of Canada's health data by developing information standards that allow every jurisdiction in the country to understand, compare, and use health data effectively; building and maintaining 28 pan-Canadian databases that enable jurisdictions to compare data; producing analyses on health and health care in Canada that are relevant, timely, and actionable; and increasing the understanding and use of data through education, reporting tools, and strategies.
Although we play an integral role in providing data and analyses to policy-makers in Canada's health system, we are neutral and objective in fulfilling our mandate. We neither create nor take positions on policy. We are funded by federal, provincial, and territorial governments and governed by a 15-member board of directors that links federal, provincial, and territorial governments with non-governmental health groups.
We work with a broad range of health organizations and partners across the country, providing data and information to help them fulfill their mandates. Our partners include provincial and territorial ministries of health that voluntarily submit data to us through data-sharing agreements, and other organizations such as Statistics Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, Accreditation Canada, Canada Health Infoway, and Health Canada, with whom we collaborate on many health information initiatives.
Data quality and standards are fundamental to our work. Through our internationally recognized data quality program, we apply rigour to all data collection, analyses, and reporting activities. An integral part of data quality is developing and maintaining standards and working with our stakeholders. We take a lead role in developing and implementing national standards to ensure the consistency and accuracy of our data for use in pan-Canadian comparable reporting.
Much of CIHI's data is sensitive health information. As custodians of this data, we are committed to protecting the privacy of Canadians and take this role very seriously. We do this through a comprehensive information privacy and security program. As a prescribed entity under Ontario's Personal Health Information Protection Act, CIHI is one of only four organizations in Ontario authorized to collect, use, and disclose personal health information for the purposes outlined in the act. We are also subject to oversight by the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner, and our privacy practices and procedures are reviewed and approved every three years.
As we are all aware, open data generally is about turning the data of government, such as data on weather or climate, natural resources, processing times for immigration applications, things that my colleagues have mentioned, outward for others to use to improve transparency and to promote economic activity. Some data, such as the data CIHI holds, in many instances contains personal health information, and we need to safeguard that data and release it in ways that are appropriate. For example, we need to ensure that sufficient protections are in place to prevent re-identification of an individual, residual disclosure of their health conditions, or other sensitive information. Quite frankly, CIHI's existence depends on us holding up that expectation and requirement.
CIHI strives to make our rich public resource of administrative data from provincial and territorial health systems available and accessible to stakeholders in a way that ensures privacy and security. Just one of the ways we uphold those protections is by following a series of policies and procedures whenever someone requests access to a CIHI data set. We employ staff highly trained in data anonymization and other techniques for this purpose, and in some cases, hire other experts to advise us. This is how we were able to place two sample files of our acute care data set into post-secondary libraries in Canada last year.
Similar to the open data initiative, we have a multi-year strategy under way to make the data we hold more accessible to our stakeholders through a wide range of means such as OurHealthSystem.ca, which is a website designed to help Canadians understand how well their health system is performing. It features 15 indicators exploring five areas of performance that Canadians told us were most important to them.
Public reporting is a key part of our health system performance agenda. As part of this three-year package of work, we are developing a number of interactive tools featuring performance indicators for health regions, acute care hospitals, and long-term care homes. These tools will be publicly available on our website. The next release in the fall will provide cascading performance measurement reports for health regions and facility executives. Users will be able to export data on any of the 43 indicators available directly into Excel spreadsheets.
Quick stats, another of our products, is a series of free, static, and interactive data tables and supporting documentation about the health care system that is also available to the public through our website. They provide descriptive information for a range of purposes and are used by students, advocacy groups, media, and the broader public. The patient cost estimator, which looks at the cost of particular hospital procedures, and our “wait times for priority procedures” tool are interactive tools also freely available on our website that visually present complex data in a way that is easier for the user to understand.
Our analytical publications contain actual information on important topics for policy-makers, health care leaders, and the public. These products are enabled by the data we hold and the robust methodologies we use and maintain. Some of our recent publications focused on topics such as compromised wounds in Canada, drug use among seniors on public drug programs, adverse drug-related hospitalizations among seniors, bariatric surgery in Canada, measuring the level and determinants of health system efficiency in Canada, and end-of-life hospital care for cancer patients.
We also have a series of annual reports such as “National Health Expenditure Trends”, “Regulated Nurses: Canadian Trends”, some supply and payment information for physicians, and a comprehensive report on end-stage organ failure in Canada.
Finally, if the information someone is seeking is not available through any of the products mentioned so far, researchers, decision-makers, health managers, media, and the public can request information from one or more of CIHI's databases. Requests that are complex and require more work are completed on a cost-recovery basis.
In summary, CIHI operates in a manner that aligns well with what open data is trying to achieve for government. We make a considerable amount of data publicly available and have strategies in place to make even more data available in the future. Given our role as a custodian of sensitive health information, however, it's very important we strike the right balance between accessibility and the protection of personal health information. We continue to work with our federal, provincial, and territorial partners to achieve that.
I thank you for the opportunity to address the committee. Along with my colleague, Michael Hunt, I'd be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you to the witnesses for joining us this morning.
I want to talk about this study that we've done and kind of give you a sense of why you're here today.
We started with customers—if you're ever trying to solve a business problem, that's a good place to start—and asked Canadians and representatives of different users of data what they'd be looking for. Then we did a scan around the world. What are other countries doing? What are other levels of government doing? Then we thought we'd end with our own government departments and get a sense of whether we are making good progress when it comes to open data.
What we've heard is that it's very important to have some raw data so that researchers and data experts can do things with the data, but also to have some synthesized data. Regular people on the street need to be able to access data also, and if there are some kinds of syntheses that different departments can do, that's very helpful. Also, because of all the data sets, hundreds or even thousands of data sets, there has to be some kind of search capability that regular lay-users can use to find out where that important data is.
There has also been mention of the billions or trillions of economic opportunity. A lot of that is actually savings in government, that actually opening data drives efficiencies in the sense of different people within government sharing data amongst themselves. If it's open data, you don't have to make expensive requests. It also makes it cheaper and more effective for Canadians to access data. It also drives really important benefits when it comes to decision making. Whether it's investments, or health, or safety information, it simply drives benefits. So there's unanimity that open data is a good idea. Nobody says open data is a bad idea.
My questions are more of a practical nature. We're trying to provide some recommendations to the Treasury Board, which is spearheading this initiative. There's a sense that these different open data initiatives are happening in each of your departments and all doing good work. Do you sense...? This is more of a polling question and maybe we'll go in the same order in which you made your presentations. Do you sense there's a need for more intervention from a centralized agency to do a horizontal initiative across your departments, whether it's Treasury Board or Shared Services Canada, if there were a role for a central coordinator of an open data initiative? Or are you better off doing it within each of your departmental verticals?
We want to get there. It's how can we get there with higher quality and more quickly. It's that kind of program management approach. What do you think would be the better way to achieve that result of trying to get to more open data?
I'll speak to my experience on geospatial data. I highlighted the fact that we had taken a very disciplined approach to our data, well over 100 years. You have to have a couple of things. One, you have to have really good metadata in a current context, and that could mean how you file and categorize your data. Then the data itself has to be managed in fairly standard formats and according to a rigorous process.
We actually have ISO processes, and we have international standards associated with how it is we manage our data. We actually play a leadership role in helping to define those standards so that we can get Canadian companies up at the forefront in being able to participate.
The second piece in the digital age with respect to that data is that you want to have vendor neutrality. You want to be able to have geospatial information, a map that can talk on an iPad should be able to talk on a Samsung, should be able to talk on a BlackBerry. You need that interoperability and you need standards associated within interoperability.
I guess I should say there are three things. The third thing is that I actually welcome the open data portal, because I think it condenses the number of federal portals. As a user myself, I find that finding the needle in the haystack is difficult because of the sheer volume of portals that exist and websites that exist. Having the open data portal forces a convergence and an ability for us, from a client perspective, to make sure that we find that data much more easily.
We're currently working with Treasury Board and others, like Google and the other big service providers, to sharpen the search engines. If you sharpen the search engines and you have better data, highly structured, available data, you should be able to search once and find everything.
That mantra that I talked about before, “search once and find everything”, that's what we want to do.