Open data

Open Data is structured data (data with a pattern that makes it easy to search and use) that is machine-readable, freely shared, used and built on without restrictions.

Opening Ontario's data

We want Ontario’s data to be open by default. That means that we want to make all data that we create, collect, or manage public, unless we cannot do so for legal, privacy, security or commercially-sensitive reasons.

For datasets we cannot open, you can still learn about them through the Data Catalogue.

The Ontario Data Catalogue indicates if a dataset is:

  • open data – The dataset is available
  • under review – The dataset is still being screened. It may become open or it may be restricted and not released.
  • restricted from being open – The dataset has been screened and will not be released to the public. The record will be listed in the Data Catalogue, but the data will not be shared.
  • inactive – The dataset is no longer actively maintained and its update is discontinued, or the dataset has to be replaced with a newer or modified version of the dataset. The existing data will continue to be available.

There are over 2,700 datasets currently listed, and more than 800 of them are open.

We will continue to expand the Data Catalogue as new data becomes available and as we work to open the data you want made public.

So far, to open our data, we have:

International Open Data Charter

Ontario has adopted the International Open Data Charter to enhance our Open Data Directive. The charter lays out six principles that serve as the foundation for releasing government data. Each principle contains a number of actions to demonstrate our commitment to implementing the charter.

The charter’s principles say that data should be:

  1. open by default
  2. timely and comprehensive
  3. accessible and usable
  4. comparable and interoperable
  5. for improved governance and citizen engagement
  6. for inclusive development and innovation

Adopting the International Open Data Charter in Ontario means we will:

  • engage more Ontarians on open data
  • coordinate better with other governments and set common data standards across jurisdictions
  • establish timelines for reaching milestones to encourage the timely release of data

This commitment is part of in the Open Government Partnership’s Subnational Pilot Program.

Read our letter to the International Open Data Charter organization to learn more.

Open Data Directive and the Simpler, Faster, Better Services Act (2019)

Ontario’s Open Data Directive maximizes access to government data by requiring all data to be made public on the Ontario Data Catalogue, unless it is exempt for legal, privacy, security, confidentiality or commercially-sensitive reasons. Learn more about Ontario’s Open Data Directive.

In 2019 the core principles and responsibilities of this directive were elevated into law. Learn more about open data in Ontario’s Simpler, Faster, Better Services Act.

The Open Data guidebook provides information on Ontario’s open data process. It explains the requirements of Ontario’s Open Data Directive and provides guidance to ensure consistent approaches to open data practices across government. Learn more about Ontario’s Data Guidebook.

Who’s using our data

Ontario’s data is helping to make a difference. Researchers, app developers, non-profit organizations and others are using our data to come up with innovative applications, programs and solutions to help Ontarians, such as:

  • The website uses Ontario’s data on health service locations to help people find their nearest healthcare options anytime, any day.
  • the Gridwatch app that uses Ontario data to help show where Ontario’s power comes from and when the grid is or isn't using clean energy.
  • the Map Your Property tool that uses Ontario data to provide analytics and mapping for urban planners and developers.
  • the University of Toronto’s Technologies for Knowledge Media Design course that has students investigating how to use open data to improve public engagement in Ontario.

If you’ve been using Ontario data, we’d love to know – tell us and we might profile it! Email us or connect with us on Twitter at @ONDigital.

Turning data into open data

It isn’t a simple task to open data safely, but all ministries in Ontario work to transform and share their information as open and machine-readable data. In Ontario this process includes:

  • identifying and prioritizing data for release,
  • assessing data quality, reviewing data for accuracy,
  • legal,
  • privacy and security implications,
  • making data accessible and compliant with French language requirements, and
  • ensuring specific technical requirements are met.

This process can take several weeks to a year, depending on the volume and complexity of the data.

Keep checking in to see the Data Catalogue grow and help flag data that would be of highest value to open for you and your community.