Dude, where’s my data?

I will keep coming back to the main theme of this post in the future, because it is worth pointing out.

I came across a job (EO-2017-90, for the curious) with Elections Ontario, an independent Government of Ontario agency charged with conducting elections. The Ontario government has an elegant careers website that is simple and easy to use and also very transparent. While bodies like Elections Ontario could be argued to  fall outside of the regular Ontario government recruitment, all salaries are paid out of the same one Consolidated Revenue Fund. And in the end, they are all government employees, perhaps covered by different union agreements, but serving the same one province of Ontario.

Now, given that the province has a pretty good careers website and it is open to Elections Ontario and other provincial agencies to use (and many do use it), I wonder why Elections Ontario chose to go with a US website to do its recruiting? The applicants for the job in question were required to submit their applications here. The Ontario government has used HR Associates before – the Ontario Internship Program applications are processed by them and have been for almost a decade now. My issue is that the form was ultimately based on a US website that was acquired by SurveyMonkey.

The first issue is that Ontario taxpayer dollars are being used to conduct hiring by using a US website when there are perfectly fine Ontario options.

The second and more important issue is that of data sovereignty. By putting my data on a US server, it is subject to US laws. When there is a perfectly valid Ontario option available to the government, why is Elections Ontario turning over Canadian data to the US? The form says that the applications will ultimately be sent to the hiring manager. Well, why then not use the traditional Ontario careers website?Why have the data routed through the US? If E.O. was unaware that HR Associates is going to use a US based website, then it is very strange. HR Associates has been used extensively by the E.O. and data sovereignty is an issue that should be at the top of the mind of recruiters especially the government.

As an aside: By asking for the quoting of the job number in the subject line, E.O. can eliminate some applications at the beginning itself. There are other filters that E.O. can use. And quite frankly, I am not sure why having so many qualified applicants apply for the job is a problem. The government constantly talks about attracting talent and here you have it in plenty. I digress.

I am posting on this website because the servers are based in Canada. At least that is what the hosting company says on their website and I am sure that is the case. If I as a computer-novice can care about this, why doesn’t a well-funded government organization like E.O.?

I really do wonder what exactly E.O. gained by using HR Associates and its US based form.

PDF is not Open Data – 1

The City of Mississauga has a pretty decent Open Data page.

However, as is often the case, the one major aspect of Open Data that takes a long time to filter through to the entire organization is the idea of cross linking. That is, the data is in fact at only one location but every reference to it on any webpage only links to the data. Thus, there is only the “one” data that everyone refers to and not different copies. This somewhat falls apart when you note that the Mississauga Votes page has PDFs of municipal election data.

Granted that a data enthusiast who wants Open Data would actually figure this out and actually go to the Open Data page, but what about those who are just merely curious and do not really know about Open Data? Or what if someone does not really think of election related information as Open Data? By making data available in PDF the City is definitely making it easy for novices but it goes against the idea of Open Data. Cruel though it sounds, everyone must actually refer to only the “one” data and it is up to the City to ensure that it also follows through on this.

(Cross posted).

Typeface and fonts

A crucial aspect of a webpage is the typeface and font used on the page. I am no expert on this topic, but I do like it when a webpage’s text is pleasant to read.

One of the clear winners on this aspect is the UK government, with their unified typeface. Blog posts here, here, and here, give some idea of how the UK webpages have come to their current look.

The Ontario government’s webpages use different fonts. As the Communications section driven ontario.ca webpage takes off and starts becoming the centralizing/ defining page for all Ontario government websites, perhaps the Ontario government’s webpages will also start looking similar.

(This post will be updated)