Canadian billionaire bemoans lack of Canadian leadership

Jim Balsillie writes about the need for Canada to have a national data strategy.

This is not the first time Canada has dropped the ball on this topic. Maclean’s magazine wrote about it in September 2017, Michael Geist wrote about it in December 2017, the CBC posted about it in July 2017, and CTV also covered it in September 2017. All in all, there has been some coverage of the topic spread out over a long period of time, but I doubt Canadians realize what is going on, and are definitely not getting on the phones to their MPs and telling them to get educated and stand up for Canada.

Given the many instances of data abuse by individuals and organizations, it is quite worrying that even in the year 2018 an alarm is not being raised over this issue.

The Nobel Prize and accessibility

The Nobel Prize for physics and chemistry were awarded this week.

I came across this excellent article that asks a very pertinent question – if the Nobel Prize is awarded for work done for the betterment of mankind, shouldn’t the knowledge be freely available?

Open access to knowledge and information is an increasingly necessary issue that everyone needs to care about. As the Internet spreads, the barriers to accessing ever increasing amounts of information are coming down. Yet, much of the credible information is unavailable to the public, and individuals sometimes take extreme actions, such as Aaron Swartz.

What are your thoughts on open access to knowledge and information?

Evolution of digital in Ontario and federally

This Google Doc provides a quick overview of things going on at the digital level in the Ontario and federal governments.

The document provides a link to a progress report on Ontario’s involvement in the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Ontario is the only sub-national jurisdiction from Canada to join. As an aside: Saskatchewan can think about joining when they stop hosting their government job application system on US servers and instead set them up on Canadian soil.

Students from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario – the national capital of Canada – are involved with the OGP. I have not found any other university to be involved with the initiative – which in my opinion is a major problem as this issue will now be defined by those who make it to Carleton, and even there, are enrolled in the classes that are participating in this initiative. The fact that Carleton is in the nation’s capital does not make it uniquely suited to give input. In fact, it would be worthwhile to engage a small post-secondary educational institution to test the power of communication and get inputs from outside the national capital. The fact that the students are mostly from a communications program is another major concern, in my opinion.

By seeing Open Data/ Digital through the eyes of communication, we risk turning it into a PR exercise. Data becomes about whoever speaks the language and what is being measured. So, rather than digital becoming the enabler of (increasing) participation by those who are on the outside, it becomes a propaganda exercise. A bit like how the Ontario government is running the Ontario Digital team.

Irritatingly, the link to the “People” section is now a pop-up – you can access it here.

The Ontario government is also seeking input on, and working on, digital service standards.

Performance Measurement in Nova Scotia

I came across this website a while back and found it to be a good example of performance measurement as usually practiced by government.

Nova Scotia has typically faced a brain drain and this website tracks efforts to change that. Any time you set a goal, it is important to measure your way there to see how you are doing. This extends even to the realm of fitness – almost any and all fitness websites will tell you to track your activity to measure how well you are progressing (or not) towards your goal. The other thing it does is influence you psychologically – it is not just about doing something, it is that you see it done. And that makes you feel good.

The OneNS website, is of course not about fitness, but by having the website I bet it makes Nova Scotians feel a bit better about themselves and it shows what work is being done, and where work needs to be done.

As described in the Background section, the measurement is being carried out by a group of organizations, and this will go on until 2024. While it is normal for interest to fade after a while, the fact that the website is readily accessible and the measures are under development makes me believe that interest will be maintained. Seeing different rates of progress on the various indicators could also invite input/ suggestions from different quarters – interested/ affected organizations or individuals thus again ensuring interest in the project.

I like the fact that it is a long-term project – gives it time to change methods if/ as needed to achieve or even exceed goals. And, of course, generates more data.

Performance measurement in the public sector, and I am sure it is the case in the private sector too, is always tough to measure. The goals mentioned are often hard to define and everyone’s interpretations are different. “A better society” for one may mean something completely different than to another.

I recall reading a very interesting article on this topic when I worked for the Ontario government (I could easily access public administration journals, one of the perks of being in the public service). Markus Sharaput’s “The limits of learning: Policy evaluation and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation Authors” (Canadian Public Administration; Volume 55, Issue 2; June 2012; Pages 247–268) talks about the problem of measurement at the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, frequently the source of good news for the provincial government. Perhaps the members of OneNS can read up on this article to learn some useful lessons and do better with their online efforts.