London, Ont – Today, Public Sector Digest (PSD) in partnership with Canada’s Open Data Exchange (ODX) introduced the Open Cities Index, the first annual report benchmarking open data initiatives in cities across Canada. The first edition of The Open Cities Index includes 34 of Canada’s largest municipalities, covering 41 percent of Canada’s total population. Each year PSD will release a new iteration of the Open Cities Index, publishing an annual report highlighting the top ten cities demonstrating excellence in open data. The 2015 Top Ten report will be published January 15th 2016 at www.publicsectordigest.com.
Open Cities Index 2015 Top Ten
The Open Cities Index
The Open Cities Index has been created as a supplementary guide for cities looking to initiate or advance their open data programs. Until now, municipalities have lacked a reference point for what types of data to make available to the public, in what format, and at what frequency. The Open Cities Index benchmarks 34 municipalities on 107 variables, providing a detailed comparison of open data programs across regions and provinces/territories. The Open Cities Index measures the readiness, implementation, and impact of the participating cities’ open data initiatives.
1) Readiness: To what extent is the municipality ready/capable of fostering positive outcomes through its open data initiative?
2) Implementation: To what extent has the city fulfilled its open data goals and ultimately, what data has it posted online?
3) Impact: To what extent has the posted information been used, what benefits has the city accrued as a result of its open data program, and to what extent is the city capable of measuring the impact?
The implementation section of the Index consists of three types of data sets that cities might have made available to the public: Accountability, Innovation, and Social Policy. The Accountability cluster includes data sets related to government finance and elections like government budget data and election data. The Innovation cluster includes data sets related to government operations like traffic volumes and service requests. Finally, the Social Policy cluster includes data sets related to outcomes for a community like crime rates and health performance. Across each type of data set, municipalities were scored on five variables: is that type of data available online, is it machine readable, is it available for free, is it up to date, or is it unavailable? A meaningful and comprehensive open data program will include up to date data sets that are available online for free in a format that is machine readable, facilitating the analysis and reuse of data by the general public and developers.
Open Cities Index 2015 – Top Ten scores by category
The Top Ten
With open data being a relatively new responsibility for municipal governments, limited progress has been made in most communities in Canada to launch or advance open data portals or initiatives. The Open Cities Top Ten are trailblazers, working to develop the most efficient and effective open data programs despite limited resources.
For 2015, the city that emerged at the top of the Open Cities Index was Edmonton, followed by Toronto and Surrey rounding out the top three. These cities have placed open data at the centre of their strategies to open up government, while providing the private sector with valuable data for analysis and reuse. Edmonton received a score of 78% overall for its open data program, with strong performance in the Readiness category (73%) and with the highest score under the Implementation sub-category of Innovation (89%). From government spending data to zoning data (GIS), Edmonton has made a wide variety of its data available to the public online, with most sets being free, up to date, and machine readable. Similarly, Toronto has made great strides in posting municipal data sets from a wide variety of departments/operations. With the highest score under the Implementation sub-category of Social Policy (83%), Toronto is leading the way in making data sets available related to program outcomes in the community, including health and education performance data. Leading the pack under the Accountability sub-category of Implementation is the City of Ottawa, scoring 95% and coming in fourth overall in the Open Cities Index for 2015. From budget data to lobbyist information, Ottawa has made Accountability data sets a priority in its open data program.
It is evident from the results of the 2015 Open Cities Index that most Canadian cities have significant work to do to advance their open data programs. The overall average score for the 34 participating municipalities was 25% for 2015. The greatest room for improvement can be seen under the Impact category of the Index with an overall average score of 29%. Municipalities are struggling to accurately measure the impact and outcomes of their open data programs. Some cities have reported operational cost savings with the public able to access data directly online, thereby reducing requests for information. Others have been able to proactively generate local economic development via hackathons using published municipal data.
Municipalities fared slightly better under the Implementation category with a national average score of 35%. The strongest showing was under the sub-category of Accountability (50% national average score), with more municipalities publishing data relating to government budgets, spending, and elections. Social Policy is by far the weakest sub-category with a national average of 21%. These types of datasets can be more difficult to come by, with several levels of government sometimes responsible for data gathering, for example with health performance being heavily tied to provincial jurisdictions. Social Policy data sets may also contain more sensitive information about individuals, requiring more work on the part of the municipality to ensure anonymity where required.
Municipalities performed the best overall under the Readiness category of the Index with a national average score of 41%. The first step in launching an open data program is to identify a team lead and start building organizational capacity for program implementation. With many communities across Canada, both large and small, starting to assign the open data portfolio to a department or team, the readiness of Canada’s cities to tackle open data challenges and opportunities is improving. The Top Ten cities are one step ahead with many having an open data lead and budgets set aside for technology, training, and even community outreach.
Participating in the Open Cities Index
In 2016, PSD and ODX will work with participating Canadian municipalities and the private sector to improve the standardization of municipal open data benchmarking, as well as facilitate national discussion around emerging trends and challenges within municipal open data. PSD has already launched the Open Cities Index online benchmarking tool that allows municipalities to compare open data initiatives across Canada. Cities can benchmark their open data programs across categories by region and population. The interactive tool is designed so that cities can watch their growth from year to year and identify targeted areas for improvement. Cities interested in being included in the Open Cities Index and accessing a detailed analysis of municipal open data programs across Canada can contact PSD for further details.
For more information contact:
Tyler Sutton, Research Lead
Public Sector Digest
tsutton [at] publicsectordigest [dot] com
(519) 690-2565 ext. 2210
About Public Sector Digest
The Public Sector Digest is a monthly digital and quarterly print publication written to advance the managerial capacity of Canada’s public sector. PSD’s research activities and content, including articles, case studies, webinars, and white papers, focus exclusively on topics pertinent to current and future executives across all government levels and disciplines. Its network of researchers and authors spans 20 countries, across six continents, and comprises highly accomplished specialists and academics from hundreds of world-class organizations and government agencies.
About Canada’s Open Data Exchange
ODX is a public-private-academic partnership based in Waterloo Region serving all of Canada. The initiative presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs to multi-national companies to be a global leader in the commercialization of open data. Founding partners include University of Waterloo, D2L (Desire2Learn), CDMN (Canadian Digital Media Network), OpenText and Communitech— with funds matched by the Government of Canada.