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MPs will be debating Bill C-626 which proposes amending the Statistics Act this Friday November 7 to:

Reinstate the long-form census and expand the authority of the Chief Statistician of Canada.

The first reading of the text of An Act to Amend the Statistics Act / Projet de Loi C-626 Prèmiere Lecture was done on Sept. 22, 2014.

It was tabled by Ted Hsu, Liberal Member of Parliament for Kingston.

Here are some resources:

  1. Fortunately, Evidence for Democracy has taken this on as a campaign, and the
  2. Save The Census folks are also keeping us up to date on this issue with their Facebook page.
  3. Ted Hsu also has some excellent information resources in the Bill C-626 Blog
  4. the Datalibre.ca blog has a number of resources, which you can search
  5. The Civicaccess.ca list also keeps an archives of all of its posts, and you can search find excellent resources there as well.
  6. OpenParliament.ca has the essentials about the Bill
  7. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) – All the latest on the census long-form debacle

Some recent articles:

ACTIONS:

Below is and excerpt from a blogpost on the Programmable City website.  I work there now, and post quite a bit of open data, big data, data infrastructure posts there.  Most do not include any CanCon so I do not always put them here.  The Open Government Partnership is big for the Federal Government in Canada, and the OGP Independant Reporting Mechanism report by the Independant Reviewer Dr. Mary Francoli, was not particularly kind to our Action Plan, and rightly so.  The OGP is however not that big a deal on the ground or with civil society in Canada.  It is however really important elsewhere, in Ireland for example, the EU and the OGP are leveraged as a way to bring and promote progressive practices, regulation, laws, and so on.  In developing countries, it is a way for civil society organizations to have a voice and meet officials they would otherwise not get to interact with at home, and again have a transnational organization promote change.

I will try and post here more often!  Took me time to adjust to my new home.  Rest assured though, that I have not forgotten you nor do I not pay attention to the data shenanigans ongoing in Canada!

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I attended the European Regional Meeting of the Open Government Partnership at the Dublin Castle Conference Centre in May of this year.  The meeting was a place for performance and evaluation wonks to show their wares, especially at the following sessions: Open Government Standards and Indicators for Measuring Progress, The EU’s Role in Promoting Transparency and Accountability and Engagement with the OGP, and Open Contracting: Towards a New Global Norm.  I did not attend the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) sessions, but having read the IRM report for Canada, I know that it too is an emerging performance evaluation indicator space, which is affirmed by a cursory examination of the IRMs two major databases.  The most promising, yet the most disappointing session was the Economic Impact of Open Data session.  This is unfortunate as there are now a number of models by which the values of sharing, disseminating and curating data have been measured.  It would have been great to have heard either a critical analysis or a review of the newly released Ordinance Survey of Ireland report, Assessment of the Economic Value of the Geospatial Information Industry in Ireland, the many economic impact models listed here in the World Bank Toolkit, or the often cited McKinsey Global Institute Open data: Unlocking innovation and performance with liquid information report.  Oh Well!

While there I was struck by the number of times maps were displayed.  The mapping of public policy issues related to openness seems to have become a normalized communication method to show how countries fare according to a number of indicators that aim to measure how transparent, prone to corruption, engagemed civil society is, or how open in terms of data, open in terms of information, and open in terms of government nation states are.

What the maps show is how jurisdictionally bound up policy, law and regulatory matters concerning data are.  The maps reveal how techno-political processes are sociospatial practices and how these sociospatial matters are delineated by territorial boundaries.  What is less obvious, are the narratives about how the particularities of the spatial relations within these territories shape how the same policies, laws and regulation are differentially enacted.

Below are 10 world maps which depict a wide range of indicators and sub-indicators, indices, scorecards, and standards.  Some simply show if a country is a member of an institution or is a signatory to an international agreement.  Most are interactive except for one, they all provide links to reports and methodologies, some more extensive than others.  Some of the maps are a call to action; others are created to solicit input from the crowd, while most are created to demonstrate how countries fare against each other according to their schemes.  One map is a discovery map to a large number of indicators found in an indicator portal while another shows the breadth of civil society participation.  These maps are created in a variety of customized systems while three rely on third party platforms such as Google Maps or Open Street Maps.  They are published by a variety of organizations such as transnational institutions, well resourced think tanks or civil society organizations.

We do not know the impact these maps have on the minds of the decision makers for whom they are aimed, but I do know that these are often shown as backdrops to discussions at international meetings such as the OGP to make a point about who is and is not in an open and transparent club.  They are therefore political tools, used to do discursive work.  They do not simply represent the open data landscape, but actively help (re)produce it.  As such, they demand further scrutiny as to the data assemblage surrounding them (amalgams of systems of thought, forms of knowledge, finance, political economies, governmentalities and legalities, materialities and infrastructures, practices, organisations and institutions, subjectivities and communities, places, and marketplaces), the instrumental rationality underpinning them, and the power/knowledge exercised through them.

This is work that we are presently conducting on the Programmable City project, which will  complement a critical study concerning city data, indicators, benchmarking and dashboards, and we’ll return to them in future blog posts.

1.       The Transparency International Corruption by Country / Territory Map

Users land on a blank blue world map of countries delineated by a thick white line, from which they select a country of interest.  Once selected a series of indicators and indices such as the ‘Corruption measurement tools’, ‘Measuring transparency’ and ‘Other governance and development indicators’ appear.  These are measured according rankings to a given n, scored as a percentage and whether or not the country is a signatory to a convention and if it is enforced.  The numbers are derived from national statistics and surveys.  The indicators are:

  • Corruption Perceptions Index (2013), Transparency International
  • Control of Corruption (2010), World Bank dimension of Worldwide Governance Indicators
  • The Bribe Payer’s Index (2011), Transparency International
  • Global Corruption Barometer (2013), Transparency International
  • OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (2011)
  • Financial Secrecy Index (2011), Tax Justice Network
  • Open Budget Index (2010), International Budget Partnership
  • Global Competitiveness Index (2012-2013), World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index
  • Judicial Independence (2011-2012), World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index
  • Human Development Index (2011), United Nations
  • Rule of Law (2010), World Bank dimension of Worldwide Governance Indicators
  • Press Freedom Index (2011-2012) Reporters Without Borders
  • Voice & Accountability (2010), World Bank dimension of Worldwide Governance Indicators

By clicking on the question mark beside the indicators, a pop up window with some basic metadata appears. The window describes what is being measured and points to its source.

The page includes links to related reports, and a comments section where numerous and colourful opinions are provided!

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View the rest at Programmable City.

This GeoConnections webinar discussed the results of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Funded Partnership Development Grant entitled Mapping the Legal and Policy Boundaries of Digital Cartography led by Dr. R. Fraser Taylor of the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre (GCRC), Carleton University, and Dr. Teresa Scassa of the Faculty of Law, Centre of Law, Technology and Culture (CLTS) at the University of Ottawa, including the Canadian Internet Public Policy Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) and GeoConnections.

The issues presented were:

  • Traditional Knowledge (TK) and cybercartography;
  • The complexities of Intellectual Property rights and TK;
  • Challenges and possible solutions with regard to Western law and TK;
  • The role of collaborative relationships in cybercartography in the North.

(182 particiants, from all provinces and territories including Malawi, Italy, USA, New Zealand and the UK)

Ce webinaire de GéoConnexions a présenté les résultats d’une subvention de développement, en partenariat avec le Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines (CRSH) : « Mapping the Legal and Policy Boundaries of Digital Cartography », dirigée par Dr. R. Fraser Taylor du Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre (GCRC) de l’Université de Carleton, et Dr. Teresa Scassa, du Centre de recherche en droit, technologie et société, de la faculté de droit de l’Université d’Ottawa, en collaboration avec la Clinique d’intérêt public et de politique d’internet du Canada (CIPPIC) et GéoConnexions.

Vous apprendrez davantage sur les sujets suivants :

  • Le savoir traditionnel et la cybercartographie;
  • Les complexités de la propriété intellectuelle et le savoir traditionnel;
  • Les défis et les solutions possibles en matière de droit occidental et de savoir traditionnel;
  • Le rôle des collaborations en cybercartographie dans les régions nordiques.

(37 participans, Territoires du nord ouest, Colombie Britanique, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec et Terre neuve aussi Belgique, Danemark, Etats-unies et Royaumes unies)

Canada has signed on to the G8 Open Data Charter. The official UK G8 Presidency site includes the Charter and its associated technical Annex.  This Charter falls under one of this year’s G8 agenda items, which is to promote greater transparency. The main points of the charter are:

  1. Principle 1: Open Data by Default
  2. Principle 2: Quality and Quantity
  3. Principle 3: Usable by All
  4. Principle 4: Releasing Data for Improved Governance
  5. Principle 5: Releasing Data for Innovation

The G8 countries have committed to the following 3 actions:

  • Action 1: G8 National Action Plans
  • Action 2: Release of high value data (List is pasted below)
  • Action 3: Metadata mapping

These are all good things.  The devil will be in the details and implementation in Canada will depend on collaboration and interoperability between provinces, territories, cities and municipalities and the federal governments.  It will be interesting to see how crown corporations such as Canada Post, Canada Housing and Mortgage and Corporation (CMHC), CBC/Radio Canada and others fare.  At the moment, it there is uncertain if these are to follow the same rules.

The list of high value data that should be released somewhat overlap with information collected by the Open Knowledge Foundation Open Data Census.  Note the postal code data requested under geospatial, this is a big ask for Canada especially in light of the Geocoder copryright lawsuit instigated by Canada Post. Digital Copyright Canada has also done some good work on the postal code file.

It will be very interesting to see if greater access to data will mean an increase in evidenced based policy making and greater participatory democracy. The government will need to be more receptive to citizen input, and so far, if the census and issues around science are any indication, this does not look promising.  Releasing data is one thing, acting on the evidence and having the mechanisms in place and willingness to hear from citizens is another.

Data Category (alphabetical order) Example datasets
Companies Company/business register
Crime and Justice Crime statistics, safety
Earth observation Meteorological/weather, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting
Education List of schools; performance of schools, digital skills
Energy and Environment Pollution levels, energy consumption
Finance and contracts Transaction spend, contracts let, call for tender, future tenders, local budget, national budget (planned and spent)
Geospatial Topography, postcodes, national maps, local maps
Global Development Aid, food security, extractives, land
Government Accountability and Democracy Government contact points, election results, legislation and statutes, salaries (pay scales), hospitality/gifts
Health Prescription data, performance data
Science and Research Genome data, research and educational activity, experiment results
Statistics National Statistics, Census, infrastructure, wealth, skills
Social mobility and welfare Housing, health insurance and unemployment benefits
Transport and Infrastructure Public transport timetables, access points broadband penetration

I heart librarians!
Canadian Library Association Annual Conference presentation in Ottawa, June 1, 2012.

Abstract:
Cities and data producers are quickly embracing Open Data, albeit unevenly. The Data Liberation Initiative (DLI) has been a pioneer in broadening access to data for nearly two decades. This session will examine the relevance of Data Liberation in terms of Open Data and explore how librarians can step up to the plate to make Open Data/Open Government as successful as DLI.

Speakers:
- Wendy Watkins, Data Librarian, Carleton University (wendy_watkins@carleton.ca)
- Ernie Boyko, Adjunct Data Librarian, Carleton University (boykern@yahoo.com)
- Tracey P. Lauriault, Post Doctoral Fellow, Carleton University (tlauriau@gmail.com)
- Margaret Haines, University Librarian, Carleton University (http://www.library.carleton.ca/)


Study on Open Government: A view from local community and university based research

The CivicAccess list from time to time has some really good discussions.  As of late there have been a couple of great ones.  They are honest and often bring up issues that require some external expertise.

The question of race questions in the former long-form Canadian census was the latest.  It was inspired by comments associated with the NYTimes map – Mapping America: Every City, Every Block posted to the list.  The list threads on this topic can be read here.

Debra Thompson was invited to read the threads and to respond.  Debra wrote The Politics of the Census: Lessons from Abroad in the Journal of Canadian Public Policy as a response to the recent cuts to the Canadian census and won the McMenemy Prize for her paper in the Canadian Journal of Political Science: Is Race Political?

Here is Debra’s Response:

That type of argument (race is dangerous, we shouldn’t be asking a question on it anyway) is actually pretty common – and came up back in 1996 when the question was  first put on the census. Unsurprisingly, it’s more often the white majority that claims race is dangerous, rather than racial minorities who largely understand that race is socially constructed, but carries consequences nonetheless. The basic fact of the matter is that we have a range of policies that depend on accurate census data. Yes, employment equity is one of those policies. Yes, it has its problems – especially in that it can’t account for variation in discrimination within the population we call “visible minority”. Some visible minorities are clearly discriminated against in a variety of socio-economic indicators – housing, employment, services, etc. Most often, these are Aboriginal peoples, Black Canadians and some Asian population groups. Other VM groups don’t necessarily need the policy in order to ensure their labour force representation is equitable. But can you imagine a Black-only or Aboriginal-only employment equity policy? It just wouldn’t fly.

The debates over whether or not a question *should* be in the census is more often than not a debate about the efficiency and equity of affirmative action-type policies. In my opinion, these debates are very important, but should take place elsewhere. I personally think employment equity is a good idea. It means the state has a positive obligation to promote racial equality. We know that the marketplace won’t do this on its own. It also sends important signals about citizenship and social justice as important priorities for the Canadian state. I would also tell critics that our employment equity policy is actually very very weak. VERY weak. It has little by way of actual monitoring, the courts have rarely backed it up, and it doesn’t compel the private sector at all. If our policy was stronger, we would have seen more VMs in the public service by now. Yet, if you look at the data, women have almost achieved representative parity, and VMs are still very much underrepresented – not nearly as badly as persons with disabilities, but still.

No matter the pros and cons of this legislation, it’s the law of the land. And we can’t make this law work properly without accurate data. In the 1980s before there was a “race question”, StatsCan used the ethnic origin question and other proxies to determine which respondents were VMs. But it was highly problematic – think about my father’s family, for example. We came to Canada in the 1860s, via the Underground Railroad. We’ve been here for a very long time. (This is why I find it so frustrating when white Canadians ask me, “no, where are you REALLY from?” I’m from HERE.) In response to the ethnic origin question, what would Dad write? “Black” is a racial group, not an ethnic group. But to put “Canadian,” “American,” or “British,” as Dad might have done, wouldn’t capture the fact that he’s black. StatsCan also had the same types of problems with other groups – Jamaicans and Indians (from India) who put their ethnic origins as “British,” Haitians who put theirs as “French”. If you want to measure race, you need a question on race.

Canada is also not alone in this regard. Over 60% of countries in the world have a question on nationality/ethnicity/race, though they use diverse conceptualizations of what these terms mean. It’s also been proven time and time again by places like the United States and Great Britain that having a question on race in the census is actually helpful if the society’s ultimate goal is racial equality. Canada has had this question on its census since 1996. And we’re not more divided than before, race riots haven’t broken out (though there are some places in Canada where racial minorities are living so far below the poverty line that I wouldn’t be surprised if they did), and our kitten-hugging version of multiculturalism – high on rhetoric, low on actual results in terms of lessing racial disadvantage – is still intact. So, you see, having a question on race isn’t about making Canadian society more divided. It’s about making it more equal. I think that’s a pretty important goal.

Census update from – Save the Census Campaign

Peggy and John are keeping up the good work on the Save the Census Campaign and here is their latest update:

The census in the news:

Save the Census’ is on Facebook and Twitter @savethecensus:

Join our new Facebook page and Twitter page, where you can find the most up-to-date information from the Campaign, including media coverage and any other important correspondence.  Please circulate to friends and other supporters!

Continuing our battle takes—surprise—money! If you would like to donate to the Save the Census campaign please visit www.SavetheCensus.ca.

Find out more at www.savethecensus.ca, datalibre.ca, and www.ccsd.ca. For more information or to get actively involved with the campaign email us at info@savethecensus.ca.

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