Author Archives: Geothink

Canada’s Open Government Licence V2.0 Is Released



Written by Teresa Scassa

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With little fanfare, the Canadian government has released its much awaited, newly revised Open GovernmentLicence. The previous version that had been available on its Open Data site was a beta version on which public comments were invited. The government has also published its Open Government Licence Consultation Report, which summarizes and discusses the comments received during the consultation process.

The revised version of the licence is an improvement over its predecessor. Gone is the claim to database rights which do not exist in Canada. (These rights do exist in the UK, the Open Government Licence of which was a template for the Canadian licence). The new licence also discards the UK term “personal data” and replaces it with “personal information”, and it gives this term the meaning ascribed under the federal Privacy Act. The language used in the licence has been further simplified,making it even more accessible.

It should be noted that Alberta’s new open government licence – released as part of the launch of its open government portal earlier this year – is very similar to V2.0 of the federal government licence. There are some minor formatting differences, and a few changes in wording, most of which can be explained by the different jurisdiction (for example, the definition of “personal information” refers to Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act). The similarities between the two licences are no coincidence. Although the Alberta licence was made public prior to the release of the federal government’s V2.0, work has been going on behind the scenes to move towards some form of federal/provincial consensus on the wording of open government licences with a view to ensuring that there is legal interoperability between data sets released by different governments in Canada. The efforts to reduce barriers to interoperability (whether legal or technical) are important to the ability of Canadians to work with and to integrate different data sets in new and innovative ways. Thus not only is the COGL V2.0 to be welcomed, so are the signs that cooperation and coordination may lead to a greater legal interoperability of open government licences across Canada.



Get to know Geothink

By Matthew Tenney

We live in a hyperlocal world, using geospatial technologies in which we contribute, share, and visualize information about our location and activities. Using technologies like Google Maps and GPS-enabled cellphones, individuals tweet about potholes; their mobile apps deliver directions to the nearest coffee shop, whose reviews were contributed by individuals. Governments add to the geographic data stream by increasing accessibility of their data, like real time transportation information. The new mobile forms of map making, called the Geospatial Web 2.0, are important to Canada’s and could regain our lost ground as a world leader in map making and geographic technologies and lead government practices into the future. The emergence of these tools and services provides new capabilities for both non-experts and governments to collectively contribute–to crowdsource–geographic information to a host of social, economic and environmental challenges. The widespread accessibility of these capabilities is significant because it blurs distinctions between user and producer of geographic information and allows citizens to volunteer geographic information with their locations and experiences.

Geothink is a 5-year partnership research grant funded by SSHRC and is one of only 20 grants awarded this year. The initiative is composed of 26 researchers and 30 partners, that range from city officials, business leaders, and academics across Canada. Our primary focus is on the implications of increasing two-way exchanges of geographic information between citizens and governments and the way in which technology shapes, and is shaped by, this exchange.

The primary goal of Geothink is captured in five broad objectives as

1) Identify best practices development and usage of Geoweb in government

2) Explicate paths for local governments to leverage the Geoweb to
communicate directly with concerned parties.

3) Investigate the social, economic and legal forces shaping means of

4) Establish a sustainable partner network of regular communication in
which ideas are bottom up and dynamically refined.

5) Train the next generation of leaders who will be highly technically
competent and cognizant of impacts of Geoweb technologies on governance
processes and citizen relationships.

As the grant progresses we will share necessary information for people to better understand and use these technologies for future projects and hopefully lead to significant changes in government practices in light of the research produced by the Geothink team.

We also would like to invite both cities and citizens to participate in any of the activities of Geothink including suggestions on how best to use these new digital technologies and the kind of data that would be most useful to provide.

Geothink ‘Meetup Montreal’

By Matthew Tenney

The Geothink Canada “meetup” took place last night (26 June 2013) that started with an overview of the grant by Professor Stéphane Roche from the Université Laval. Participants of the meetup ranged from university professors and students to city officials and representatives from Open Street Map (OSM). With such a diverse group of attendents individual interests and curiousities took the lead in guiding the evenings discussions.

A variety of topics were discussed that spotlighted both the many
troubles we will certainly face, as well as the range of benifits that could spur from such a comprehensive research initative regarding open-data and -government practices across Canada.

Topics that were covered ranged from overcoming the digital-divide,
engaging participation from marganilized communities, data-quality and provenance, and of course legal issues encompassing the dissemination of data.

Pleased by the turn out of the “meetup”, we look forward to the next one and hope to see you come out to be heard (be it in the flesh or a digital presence).

Stack Exchange Kicks Off New Open Data Forum – Check It Out!!

By Matthew Tenney

“Open Data Stack Exchange is a question and answer site

for developers and researchers interested in open data.

It’s 100% free, no registration required.”


For those of you familiar with Stack Exchange already it is a pleasant sight to find the new Open Data forum online. If you are just now becoming acquainted with the site, welcome to a community of active and knowledgeable individuals where you can further hone your Open Data chops!  Open Data - Stack Exchange Beta is up and running!

Open Data – Stack Exchange Beta is up and running!

While the site is just budding, it has already seen an impressive number of stimulating questions and is carrying a 94% answered rate! Not only will you have leading experts in the fields of computer science and spatial technologies the new Open Data forum welcomes experts in participation, organizational, and data theory.

The range of questions and depth of answers is also driven totally by YOU! So don’t hesitate to post, comment, and answer question with this great resource for those of us interested in Open Data.

Quebec Unveils New Open Data Portal

By Matthew Tenney

The Quebec government, considered one of the most opaque in Canada, took a tentative first step toward transparency by unveiling a central website for provincial data.

The new open data portal, at, is the province’s first shot at open government, the idea that democracy is strengthened when administrations are transparent and actively court the participation of citizens to solve public problems.

“It’s great that they took this step, it’s a move in the right direction,” said David Eaves, a Vancouver-based open data advocate who advises governments on openness.

“But they shouldn’t say they’re done. It’s too early to tell how good the portal will be.”

The website launched with about 70 data sets, many of them statistical tables that were already available on the website of the Institut de la statistique du Québec.

Read more: best treatment for herpes href=””> Quebec unveils central website data