Keynote – Jean-Noé Landry


Jean-Noé Landry
Executive Director, Open North

What’s Next? Confronting Sustainability Challenges of Canada’s Open Data Community(ies)
Many governments across Canada have moved to adopt open data policies, to invest in open data initiatives, to set up open data portals and to make datasets available publicly in open data format. While a select group of cities had mustered the political will to push forth in this direction a few years ago, the open data trend has gained a stronger foothold more recently across all of Canada’s municipal and provincial landscape, with strong leadership coming from the province of Alberta, especially the cities of Edmonton and Calgary. As open data is gaining momentum and is scaling around the world, the global open data community has also become better at defining and quantifying open data’s impact. Initiatives, like the Open Data Enterprise Institute and The GovLab, that seek to map and research the economic, social, and democratic impacts of open data around the world, bolster the commitments made by government. Yet equivalent impact focused initiatives are at their nascent stages in Canada and our national open data community is largely disconnected from the broader open data movement. With more experience, we’re now learning about the disruptive power and innovation potential that open data can have in addressing systemic problems — such as the fight against corruption and inequality — and changing entrenched mindsets in the process. Through multi-stakeholder networks like the Open Government Partnership, the open data community is also making strides in designing open data quality guidelines, harmonizing evaluation matrices, open data standards governance best practices, as well as developing detailed maturity models that enable government to plan and measure their success more effectively and collaborate more effectively with stakeholders. Indeed, there is a need to better connect open data initiatives in Canada to the broader global open data community, and vice versa, which will be the core argument of this proposed session.
The Canadian open data community (and the multiple stakeholder groups that benefit from more open data, public or otherwise) have a vested interest in better understanding the conditions for sustainable and successful government open data initiatives. Beyond the lustre of open data portal launches and high visibility community events like hackathons, a more difficult set of challenges are quickly becoming evident. Failing to address these head-on could jeopardize the political and administrative commitments of cities. Fortunately, governments (especially cities) have an array of tools at their disposal to better understand the needs and context of government open data users. Intermediaries are also coming forward to create bridges between communities of data users and data producers and developing a richer appreciation of the context and needs of data users beyond the supply and demand paradigm. The Alberta Open Data Summit is a terrific opportunity to relay the experience of other leading cities, like Guelph, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and the provinces of British Colombia and Ontario. We must learn from each other’s leadership and realities. Instead of viewing our challenges as deterrents to implementing initiatives, this session proposes to take stock of our strengths as a national community to better connect vibrant open data ecosystems with innovative and impactful government lead open data programs.

Jean-Noé Landry, Executive Director of Open North, heads Canada’s leading not-for-profit organization specialized in open data and civic technology. Open North work focuses on strategic planning and applied research on open data, stakeholder engagement processes, civil society advocacy initiatives, and technological products and services. Open North is a steward of the International Open Data Charter and actively involved in the Open Government Partnership, which is comprised of more 60 governments worldwide. Open North’s powerful online Citizen Budget simulator has been deployed by 60 municipalities across North America, including Edmonton, Ottawa, and Seattle. Its comprehensive database of elected officials, Represent API, is used by dozens of non-profits, unions, and media organizations for their advocacy initiatives. As part of GeoThink, the SSHRC research consortium on geospatial data, Open North developed and deployed Open511 an open data standard for road events, which was adopted by the Government of British Columbia and several municipalities in Canada. Open North recently launched, Open Cities Strategies, a new initiative to help all cities in Canada succeed in planning and implementing their open data programs. Open North is also part of the core group that organizes the Canadian Open Data Summit yearly.
Jean-Noé is also co-founder of the open data citizen initiative OpenMontreal, Montreal’s leading social-innovation incubator Connexité-MTL, and the Canadian Open Government Civil Society Network.