Thank you very much.
I would like to start by giving you a very brief oversight of what we do at the OECD, what we've been doing with open data with the 34 member countries of the OECD and increasingly with the non-member countries. I would like to clarify that we work with governments for our open data project, which concerns the release of data in open formats by governments. So we don't work with the private sector.
Our project started about two years ago, and I think it's important to underline that we started the project at the request of the governments. We have a group of CIOs who represent the governments of the 34 member countries of the OECD, including Canada, who asked us to look a little more in-depth at the strategies, implementation efforts, and the impact of creation efforts that they were putting in place. We produced a working paper highlighting key issues, and we conducted a data collection in 2013 across the countries to be able to see in more detail what governments were doing in terms of being strategic, developing quotas, but also in trying to achieve the value they expect to get out of their open data strategies and initiatives, and to measure these impacts.
I think it's very important to underline that what we found out was that within the community of practitioners, both inside and outside the government, there was and there still is some confusion when it comes to definitions. This means there is much overlap with the activities, for instance, of the freedom of information movement vis-à-vis the open data movement, the discussion on access to information and open data, and how they complement each other. There is still some confusion between open data in the broader sense and open data applied within governments. There is still a little bit of confusion between open data and big data, and still some governments tend to confuse the discussion about data analytics and data mining and open data. We thought that it was extremely important, and still is extremely important, as governments progress in the implementation for open data strategies and initiatives, to work with them to clarify the definitions they refer to.
Briefly, I would like to share with you some of the outcomes of the 2013 data collection we ran that highlights some of the key challenges that governments still deal with. These challenges are of different natures. There are policy challenges when it comes to the strategy, for instance—what kind of strategy and how to make sure that the strategy for open data aligns or is better integrated with social and economic development strategies, open government strategies, public sector reform strategies, and digital agendas for governments, for instance. There are technical challenges—how to, for instance, enable interoperability and integration that didn't exist, how is it possible to foster the linkage of data sets to be released in open formats, and all the related technical issues that governments are still dealing with in many instances.
But there are also organizational challenges that, according to our survey, still remain some of the most important challenges that exist. For instance, administrations, unfortunately, are still very much silo-based in the way of functioning, meaning there is a strong sense of ownership that different public institutions associate with the fact that they are the ones responsible for producing, collecting, and distributing certain data sets. These represent a big challenge in some countries when they started thinking about the development of open data initiatives because they encounter a certain level of resistance within the public agencies.
Last but not least, there are challenges that are of a legal nature. The other witnesses, for instance, mentioned the relevance of privacy and security and how we deal with these issues. It is not only for these aspects that it is important to look at the legal constraints that exist in some legislations. For instance, I will provide two additional examples. First are access to information laws, or freedom of information acts, which were adopted by many OECD countries from decades ago. They are now going through revisions, for instance, to make sure that they also accommodate the need for open data, not just for access to information. There are also restrictions, legally speaking, that concern the sharing of data within the public sector. So at times, for instance, linked data sets can support their data analytics, which can help identify trends to improve policy-making and service delivery, but still some legal restrictions do not enable different parts of the administration to access the various data sets.
Now when it comes to value, we saw that there are three main sets of value that governments are trying to achieve. As an organization we do not advocate for any approach or for any value sets, but I think it's important to underline that there is economic value that can be achieved through open data in the wider economy.
The other witnesses mentioned for instance the ease with which business start-ups are created. I would like to add also the emergence of new private sector type businesses, for instance the so-called infomediaries that enable the relevance of the data being open to a wider group of citizens that, in many instances, would not know how to get the most value of the raw data sets being made available.
There is economic efficiency that can be gained within the public sector, improved service delivery, improved performance, and improved efficiency in the internal dynamics. There is also the social value, for instance in terms of empowering citizens to make more informed decisions on their own lives. It tends to do with a different type of engagement, for instance, and participation in policy-making and service delivery.
Last, but not least, there is a third sector value that has to do with what we call good governance value or political value. In other words, the fight for higher transparency, higher accountability, and higher responsibility of governments.
We at the OECD are now looking at the next step of what we would like accomplished in collaboration internationally with other organizations, with institutions like the ODI, and within contexts that are internationally collaborative like the OGP, the G-8, and the G-20. The big focus we have right now is on supporting the further strengthening of the strategic approach and implementation, but also focusing a lot on value creation impact assessment. Because we do believe that as investments keep being made by governments—and let's not forget that open data is not for free—there is a financial cost for governments.
It's important to keep an eye on the value being created and on the measure of this value. We are part of the working group on open data, part of the OGP, so we collaborate with other, not only international organizations, but governments and institutions to make sure that this effort moves ahead internationally, so not only working with individual governments.
So now I come to the questions that you asked. How does Canada stand in relation to other jurisdictions? Certainly we saw Canada being grouped among the countries of the OECD that we defined as quick followers, meaning there have been a group of countries that have been the pioneers, the U.K., the U.S. They have been excellent in being ambitious in this context right from the beginning.
Then we have other countries that have taken other approaches. We also have countries that have been, like I said, the quick followers. I can mention for instance France, Mexico, and Canada, which have caught up quite quickly, even if at different levels than the other countries, in following up what have been the good examples set by, for instance, the U.K. and the U.S.
In that sense, I think, an extremely positive value-add of Canada has been the one of linking open data with open government, the one of linking digital government strategy with the open data strategy, the effect of having adopted an approach that nurtures collaboration internally, the fact that a committee was created to gather various representatives from the various jurisdictions.
I think a big focus has been on improving the portal, the first version of the portal, to in June 2013 the release of a new version that increases not only the accessibility of the data sets but also the use of social media features that focus very much on increasing the engagement of the citizens.
Because when we come to value creation—I think this is one of your questions also—how do we make open data valuable for the Canadian community? I think that a key point where we see the need for strengthening the efforts of OECD member countries and maybe Canada could be strengthening the focus on knowing the demands of the data.
If you consider the three sets of value mentioned, there are different data users in the community of users, which may have different needs. So knowing the demand is important. Nurturing the demand is important. Nurturing the engagement in the use of the data is essential to produce the value.
In that sense, I think it's important down the line. For instance, in the data collection we conducted last year, Canada ranked as one of the governments that had the highest number of data sets available. But as one of the witnesses mentioned as well, I think it's very important now to move ahead in the level of openness and the visibility of these data sets, which have an important impact on the value creation.
Last but not least, I would like to refer to the point on privacy that you were asking about. In addition to what the other witnesses mentioned, I think in order to protect privacy it is extremely important to have clear guidelines for the public servants. Remember that public servants are key actors in the ecosystem, and therefore, keeping the focus on training civil servants and raising their awareness of breaches of privacy that may emerge from a number of actions they can do in relation to open data is essential.
It is essential more and more as social media efforts are combined with open data efforts and mobile government-supported efforts such as, increasingly, the use of mobile technologies within government, because all of a sudden we start merging the value domains that are relevant to produce the value for open data. But I think it's very important to remember that civil servants need to be aware of the risks for security and privacy that emerge from the linkage of these three different domains.
Last but not least, yes, I agree with the previous witnesses, in the sense that I think governments are ahead of businesses in these aspects, in a sense. But I wouldn't be unfair and compare government with the private sector in terms of how much they are opening up, because I think there are important concerns in terms of privacy and security that relate to data sets owned by governments, which are very different from data sets owned by some entities in the private sector. I think comparing the two is important, but I think it's even more important to keep high the comparisons across governments in the world to make sure that the best practices are shared and replicated.