Clement: The Harper government's all out in the openTuesday, July 17, 2012 by: Jordan Allard
Tony Clement stopped by the Innovation Centre at Algoma University on Tuesday afternoon to speak about what he called the new natural resource of the future.
Clement is referring to open data and the recent efforts of a government criticized for staunchly controlling information to make crucial data public.
"I think that's unfair," said Clement, president of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for FedNor, about criticism of the
Conservative government regarding controlling information. "We have made unprecedented investments in the research community."
Clement says he has compelling statistics to match partisan attacks and highlighted a $1.1 billion increase in research dollars in the 2012 federal budget.
"In a budget where we had to cut back, we actually increased funding for research," he said.
Clement also pointed to the reason he was in Sault Ste. Marie, the government's efforts to make more data available online, as a prime example of the government working in a spirit of openness.
"Starting in 2006, we've made changes when it comes to access of information that has opened up new avenues which didn't exist before," he said.
The Canadian government started an open data project last March to ensure Canada is part of movement by governments across the globe.
Part of that effort included the launching of an open portal (www.data.gc.ca) which Clement hailed as a one stop shop for federal data that can be downloaded free of charge by Canadians.
The information available includes everything from building permits, to wait times for non-emergency surgeries, pollution emissions and something particularly interesting to Saultites - bridge lineup wait times.
Statistics Canada has made community level health profile statistics available online as well, along with 2001, 2006 and 2011 census data.
"I can start to see the wheels turning in some of your heads in how this information can be applied," Clement said to the crowd gathered at the Innovation Centre.
Clement is travelling across the country trying to spread the word about open data.
He's encouraging people to draw inspiration from the treasure-trove of information accessible to come up with new ideas.
"There is a community of people in Canada interested in open data," said Clement. "I'm continually engaging with them to make sure they are part of the process."
The open data available online can be dug through by people and Clement is hoping new applications for mobile devices will be created as a result.
"This is data that can be mined and with the right technology that is now being made available this represents a huge opportunity," he said.
Clement pointed to Google Maps as a prime example of what's possible.
"Google Maps is something used by millions of people," said Clement. "But the information comes from publicly available data."
Currently, 272,000 data sets have been made available online and even more information should be attainable once the 2.0 version of the open portal is released in the near future.
Clement said the new portal will be more accessible and easier to navigate.
While he added there should be no upper limit to how much data they put online, Clement did say there will be restriction as to what's made available.
National security and personal information that would be privy to privacy protection are two things he identified as such.
"Protecting personal private data can be done, so it's possible to protect certain information while still being open," said Clement. "You just need be clear about what the boundaries are."