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Study reveals municipal open data progress in Canada despite limited budgets

Study reveals municipal open data progress in Canada despite limited budgets

 

London, Ont – Today, Public Sector Digest (PSD) released the second report in its Open Cities Index Report Series entitled “Municipal Open Data Budgets, Resources and Capacity.” After surveying 68 municipalities, representing 61.17% of the Canadian population, PSD found that although local governments are severely constrained in their access to funding and resources for open data initiatives, many have been able to advance open data programs. To date, no provincial or federal funding nor legislation has been introduced to directly advance municipal open data initiatives. As such, cities across the country have introduced open data programs in response to demand from their residents, in order to support strategic priorities related to government transparency, or perhaps in genuine recognition of the innovation and efficiency that can emerge from making government data publicly available.
 
OPEN DATA BUDGETS
 
While the average level of open data funding for the OCI Top 20 communities in 2016 was $136,016.70, the average for the remaining 46 municipalities was $12,255.31. A budget of $12,000 is likely an initial seed fund for communities just starting to develop an open data initiative. While it is insufficient to support a full-time hire to lead a municipality’s open data work, it could fund the research and policy development necessary to lay the groundwork for a more robust open data program. (Note that 2 municipalities of the 68 survey respondents did not provide their open data budget information.) 
 
Among the 66 municipalities included in this analysis, there are some clear outliers. The City of Ottawa, which scored 8th in the 2016 Open Cities Index, had the smallest reported open data budget of the top 10 cities at $56,000. London, Halifax, Kitchener, Victoria and Windsor all secured a spot in the top 20 without any budgetary allotment for open data. Without the budget for a full-time open data lead, these communities have assigned open data responsibilities to existing staff, in some cases within one department and in other cases across departments.
 
 
OPEN DATA STAFFING
 
Many municipalities across Canada have assigned staff time to open data despite the absence of budget allocations. The average weekly employee hours spent on open data initiatives among the 2016 Top 20 communities was 40, compared to 6.7 hours across the remaining 46 municipalities. Again, it is evident that there is a correlation between an investment in open data capacity and the advancement of open data initiatives.
 
 
POPULATION SIZE
 
Figure 3 demonstrates that there is no correlation between per capita budgets and rankings in the Open Cities Index. Of the 66 survey respondents, 63 spent less than $0.40 per capita on open data initiatives – a very modest investment. Although larger municipalities tend to have larger open data budgets, their per capita expenditure is proportionate. For comparative purposes, in 2015 the per capita expenditure on police services in Canada was $312 (Statistics Canada 2015).
 
 
OPEN DATA PLANNING
 
In order to ensure that resources are being used efficiently and effectively, municipalities must clearly identify their strategic goals, measuring progress via well-defined indicators of success. This study revealed that those municipalities that have a living open data plan in place, meaning that the plan is regularly updated, have the most robust open data programs. Those communities not yet considering adopting an open data plan predominately scored lower in the Open Cities Index. No community with an established plan, scored outside of the Top 20. Planning takes time, and measuring the results of planning takes even longer. What is clear is that above all else, investing time in preparing and implementing a thorough open data strategic plan, with buy-in from staff and council, will help push an open data agenda forward.
 
 
ABOUT THE OPEN CITIES INDEX
 
Now in its third year, the Open Cities Index was launched in 2015 by PSD in partnership with Canada’s Open Data Exchange (ODX). The Open Cities Index has grown to include 68 municipalities, representing 61.17% of the Canadian population, providing the most comprehensive analysis of the state of municipal open data initiatives across the country. The Open Cities Index serves 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 measures the readiness, implementation, and impact of the participating cities’ open data initiatives.
 
The full 2016 Top 20 report can be viewed here.   
 
 
QUOTES
 
“The Open Cities Index plays an important role in helping cities develop a framework for their open data initiatives with a focus on open data usage in support of the creation of products and services that complete the value exchange.”
- Dr. Kevin Tuer, Managing Director of Canada’s Open Data Exchange
 
 
“Canada’s largest cities are certainly clustered near the top of the OCI ranking, which speaks to the more robust financial and human capacity available to these local governments. Much smaller communities, however, have succeeded in leveraging their limited resources to advance their open data initiatives.”
- Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief, Public Sector Digest
 
 
For more information contact:
 
Tyler Sutton, Editor-in-Chief
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.