Skip to main content

Data Inventory

The government-wide data inventory was established in 2016 and keeping it current is an ongoing responsibility of Ontario’s ministries and provincial agencies.

A data inventory is a list of datasets under the custody and control of the organization. Each ministry and provincial agency must create and maintain an inventory of their datasets.

The entire data inventory may be downloaded as an individual dataset. As new datasets are added or updated, coordinated by Open Government, the complete list of the current datasets in the inventory is also updated and posted as an Open Dataset in the catalogue.

Provincial Agencies are required to maintain their own individual data inventories hosted either on their own websites or the website of their responsible ministry.

How to Identify Data

For the purposes of the Open Data Directive, data is defined as facts, figures, and statistics objectively measured according to a standard or scale, such as frequency, volumes or occurrences. Data does not include information like reports or manuals.

Although data is technically a form of information, it is important to distinguish data from information. The analysis of data can lead to the generation of other types of information. Ministries are encouraged to proactively release their information assets as Open Information and to explore connections between Open Data and Open Information.

As part of regular government operations, ministries and provincial agencies create, collect and/or manage different types of data.

  • Corporate data – workforce characteristics, financial performance, asset characteristics, procurement
  • Operational and program data – customer behaviour, program costs, service locations
  • Policy and strategy data – market data, economic competitiveness, industry tracking, supply and demand projections
  • Evaluation and performance data – program performance data, broader public sector service delivery reports, web traffic statistics

The following questions can help ministries and provincial agencies identify data:

  1. Does your organization have a legislative mandate to produce, collect or share data?

    Example:
    Facilities Greenhouse Gas Emissions Summaries: The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change collects emissions data from regulated facilities for sources listed in Ontario Regulation 452/09.

  2. Does your organization use, maintain or own the datasets used to inform policy development or program delivery?

    Example:
    Reports on Long Term Care Homes: the Ministry of Health and Long term Care Homes inspection program ensures homes comply with provincially legislated standards. It uses the data that it collects to issue reports and create profiles for each home.

  3. Does your organization share statistics, tables, graphs or other visualizations with the public?

    Example:
    Air Quality in Ontario Reports: The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change produces annual reports that use data that measure the amount of six common air pollutants as well as the results from the Air Quality Index and Smog Alert Programs. The data is visualized using charts and graphs in the Air Quality in Ontario Reports that are published on the ministry’s website.

  4. Does your organization receive Freedom of Information (FOI) requests or other requests from stakeholders for datasets?

    Example:
    Education Quality and Accountability Office Data Portal: The Education Quality and Accountability Office makes some data available online to researchers. Researchers who require data not contained in the portal can submit a request to the Ministry of Education’s Freedom of Information Office.

  5. Does your organization collect or manage data about stakeholders through surveys or consultations?

    Example:
    The Health Care Experience Survey: The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care conducts a telephone survey of Ontarians to understand Ontarians’ experience with obtaining health care in the province.

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your organization definitely possesses data and needs to list the data in the data inventory.

Your organization may also already publish information that contains data, such as:

  • tables of numbers (e.g., financial data, spending reports)
  • graphs or pie charts (e.g., trends over time, demographic statistics)
  • catalogues or lists of items (e.g., recipes, heritage properties)
  • information collected and reported at regular intervals (e.g., wildlife population counts, vehicle accident statistics)
  • mapped locations with supplementary information (e.g., hospitals, lakes, campsites)
  • contact information (e.g., lists of addresses, hunting and fishing licence issuers)
  • simple searchable databases (e.g., licensed childcare providers, approved driving schools)

The raw data that is included in information sources like the above must also be added to the inventory.

Reasons for Exemption from Publication

Ministries and provincial agencies are required to release all data, unless it is exempt due to privacy, confidentiality, security, legal or commercial sensitivity reasons. However, data that is exempt from publication should still be listed in the inventory.

Privacy – personal information

A dataset that contains any personal information about an individual must not be disclosed as Open Data under the Open Government Licence – Ontario. Indirect identifiers can also contain personal information. Ministries can receive assistance with this determination by contacting their Freedom of Information and Privacy Coordinator (FOIP).

Examples of personal information can include (but are not limited to):

  • race or colour
  • national or ethnic origin
  • religion
  • age
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • marital or family status
  • medical, psychiatric, psychological, criminal or employment history
  • name and contact information (does not apply to individuals acting in a business capacity)
  • locations and times of specific individuals.

Organizations may still be able to release data that contains personal information by de-identifying the personal information in the dataset. This is a process that requires careful analysis and rigorous risk-assessment to avoid re-identification. Your FOIP coordinator will be able to help you assess the dataset.

Security

A dataset may pose a security risk if released, by providing information about vulnerable or targeted individuals or organizations. Examples of these datasets may include:

  • Information related to policing activities
  • Information about vulnerable groups such as prison guards

Legal and contractual limitations

A dataset may have legal or contractual agreements that prevent it from being released, such as:

  • limitations in data sharing agreements
  • third party data – organizations that collect data for a ministry or provincial agency to use, but which the ministry or provincial agency does not have the necessary rights to publish as Open Data
  • commercial licence – data purchased from third parties (e.g. Canada Board of Trade) may have limited rights for distribution
  • vendor limitations – external vendors’ data services delivered under a contract that forbids the extraction or manipulation of data.
  • statute – some data is subject to statutory requirements
  • commercial sensitivity – data that may be considered a trade secret

Your legal team will be able to help you assess the data to determine if there are other legal issues.

Confidentiality

A dataset may breach confidentiality if its release impairs a government or court’s ability to make decisions, such as:

  • Court rulings or police investigation
  • Budget and policy decisions that may impact financial markets
  • Negotiations such as collective bargaining or international trade agreements

Maintaining the Data Inventory

The process for maintaining the government-wide data inventory differs slightly for provincial agencies and ministries.

Provincial agency inventories are posted on their respective websites. They must follow their own publishing processes to ensure their inventory lists are accurate on an ongoing basis (at least annually) and notify their ministry of updates. Agencies are encouraged to provide links from their posted inventory to the Open Data Directive and the Data Catalogue.

Individual ministry datasets become part of the broader government-wide data inventory once published on the Data Catalogue. Ministries must review their entries on the catalogue at least annually to ensure that they are an accurate reflection of their data.

The following are key reasons to update the data inventory:

  1. Changes to content.
  2. The access level of datasets that were under review has changed (e.g. from ‘under review’ to ‘to be open’).
  3. There are new datasets to add to the inventory.
  4. Errors (e.g. erroneously listing a dataset)

Minor changes to the data inventory (e.g. internal contact updates, typos and edits due to re-organization) do not need to be subject to the risk assessment process.

Major changes such as changing of access levels and adding new data elements to datasets should follow the data publishing process outlined below, to check for newly introduced risk. Ministries are encouraged to contact Open Government early in their update if they are unsure whether their update requires minor or major changes.

It is important to recognize that keeping the government-wide data inventory up to date is an on-going and collaborative process between ministries and Open Government.

An overview of the process and role/responsibilities is found in Appendix 1. In addition if you have multiple datasets to add the inventory, the bulk upload template can be used.

Updated: July 15, 2022
Published: August 26, 2020