Ontario’s Open Data Initiative May Be Getting Bogged Down

Ontario’s Open Government Initiative presents a great opportunity to study the impact of an Open Data Directive in a sizable, relatively well-resourced, democratic sub-national government.

In a series of posts on FOS4US: Free, Open Services for Us, we laid the groundwork for this sort of study by:

  • Identifying fourteen distinct iterations of Ontario’s Data Inventory since its inception in July 2016;
  • Visualizing the evolution of Ontario’s Data Inventory over its first year of development;
  • Harvesting over 2,300 dynamic HTML web pages served by the Application Program Interface (API) of Ontario’s Data Catalogue;
  • Merging Ontario’s Data Inventory and Data Catalogue to provide a single authoritative source of information about Ontario’s government-wide datasets; and
  • Presenting a novel graphical interface for users to explore and access the rich content served by Ontario’s Data Catalogue

In this update, we examine more closely the evolution of Data Inventory over its first year of development – and raise a concern that, after making a promising start, the Ontario Government’s Open Data initiative may be stalled.

Figure 1 presents the number of new datasets that have been added to the Ontario Government’s Data Inventory in two month intervals, beginning in July-August 2016, as well as the increase in the total size of the Data Inventory over time. We see that the Data Inventory has tended to experience “growth spurts” rather than steady growth – with no substantial increase in the total size of the Data Inventory since April 2017.

Figure 1. Growth of Ontario Governments Data Inventory July 2016 – August 2017.

Figure 2 presents the distribution of Access Levels that had been assigned to datasets when they first entered the Ontario Government’s Data Inventory and the distribution of Access Levels as of August 2017. We see that the two distributions are very similar. Indeed, 2,321/2,352 (98.7%) datasets that were listed in the Ontario Government’s Data Inventory in August 2017 had seen no change in their Access Level since first entering the Data Inventory.

Figure 2. Change in Access Level in Ontario Governments Data Inventory – July 2016 – August 2017.

Figure 3 presents the cumulative number of datasets that were “To Be Opened” or “Under Review” when they first entered the Ontario Government’s Data Inventory and remained so in August 2017.

Figure 3. Cumulative Growth of TBO, UR datasets in Ontario Governments Data Inventory July 2016 – August 2017.

Taken together, these Figures suggest that the Ontario Government has taken the reasonable decision to hold off on adding new datasets to its Data Inventory, while it figures out how to deal with the increasing backlog of datasets that are To Be Opened or Under Review.

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