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Background

Open Data in Ontario

Ontario creates, collects and manages datasets covering a wide range of topics. We post many of these datasets as Open Data online in our Data Catalogue for public access and use. These datasets are released as Open Data in accordance with Ontario’s Open Data Directive and under the Open Government Licence - Ontario or a similar open licence.

The Open Data Directive came into effect on April 1, 2016, and a revised version August 6, 2019, and requires all data created, collected and/or managed by ministries and provincial agencies to be made public as open data, unless it is exempt for privacy, confidentiality, security, legal or commercially-sensitive reasons.

The Open Data Directive provides a strong foundation for delivering on the International Open Data Charter (IODC) principles in Ontario. However, there are still concrete steps to be taken to ensure a more robust implementation of the Open Data Directive.

Open Data is the approach through which government data is made available to the public, where appropriate, so that the public and businesses can repurpose the data to develop new ideas, services and applications.

For data to be ‘Open Data’ it must satisfy the following three principles:

  • Open access: free to download via the internet and should be easily accessible
  • Open format: datasets should be machine-readable, platform independent, vendor neutral and standardized
  • Open licence: under a flexible use license that carries few conditions. It is suggested that Ontario Open Data be published under the Open Government Licence – Ontario. Ministries may use a similar open licence if the OGL is not appropriate

In May of 2017, Ontario became the first province in Canada to formally adopt the International Open Data Charter (IODC). The IODC was developed by open data experts from governments, multilateral organizations, civil society and private sector, working together to develop six principles for the release of data:

  1. Open by Default;
  2. Timely and Comprehensive;
  3. Accessible and Useable;
  4. Comparable and Interoperable;
  5. For Improved Governance and Citizen Engagement; and
  6. For Inclusive Development and Innovation.

Formal adoption of the IODC is an ongoing commitment that establishes international alignment, support and guidance for Ontario’s Open Data. Open Government staff will continue to engage with the IODC staff and other jurisdictions who have adopted the charter to refine and improve our approach to Open Data. This Guidebook will be updated to reflect the new requirements/guidance for ministries to support the on-going adoption of the International Open Data Charter.

Data Catalogue

On November 7, 2012, Ontario launched the Open Data Catalogue on Ontario.ca. In summer 2016, Ontario re-launched the catalogue as the Data Catalogue, including ministry data inventories of all data, not just Open Data.

As part of its commitment to Open Government, the government committed to releasing new datasets in the Data Catalogue and directed ministries to develop strategies to support this commitment as part of their Open Government Plans.

The Data Catalogue builds on established best practices and international conventions for making specific types of data open and available to the public through standard formats and a licence with very few restrictions.

Responsibilities

Ministries and Provincial Agencies

  1. Publish online all data that they create, collect and/or manage, unless the data cannot be public for privacy, confidentiality, security, legal or commercially-sensitive reasons.
    • ministries must publish their data on the Data Catalogue
    • provincial agencies must publish their data on their own website (if they have one) or their responsible ministry’s website (if the provincial agency does not have its own).
  2. Contribute and maintain a list of all datasets for which they have custody and control to Ontario’s data inventory.
  3. Ensure that Open Data requirements outlined in the ODD are built into their IT projects.
  4. Ensure data is open by default by
    • Doing everything possible to ensure the timely review and release of open data. Note that per revisions to the ODD effective August 6, 2019 Program Directors are responsible for ensuring a risk assessment was completed and approving the outcome (open or restricted). They are also responsible for briefing up when appropriate and coordinating the review of issues management plans when recommended by the risk review.
    • embedding open principles in data management activities, systems and processes
    • encouraging data literacy and open government objectives in learning and development plans of staff at all levels

Ontario Digital Service, Treasury Board Secretariat

  1. Coordinate and maintain an online inventory of all Government of Ontario datasets
  2. Manage the Data Catalogue with respect to keeping it up to date and co-ordinating with ministries when new datasets are added.
  3. Provide oversight for and report compliance with the Open Data Directive.
Updated: July 15, 2022
Published: August 26, 2020