Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Submission to the Open Government Consultation

As you probably know the Government of Canada's consultation on Open Government has now come to a close. I submitted the following on Sunday evening.


Re: Open Data and Proactive Disclosure of Grants and Contributions 

I have investigated how the Government of Canada currently discloses its Grants and Contributions (G&C) spending and I believe there is a significant opportunity to make this already publicly available data far more usable.


  • Each department publishes their own G&C data (i.e. there is no single repository)
  • Each data point is presented uniformly in an HTML table
  • Each data point has 6 variables: (1) Recipient Name; (2) Location (City, Province); (3) Date (YYYY-MM-DD); (4) Value ($123,456.78); (5) Purpose (free text), and (6) Comments (free text, often blank)
  • Each data point is buried in a subset of html pages and is difficult to find; in fact many of my searches using the native web page search failed to return any results from the G&C pages
I have worked with a handful of other public servants to test whether or not the data could be crawled and assembled into a single data set, and it can. We have already compiled a complete data set for all of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) G&C spending. This data set includes every Grant and Contribution disclosed by AANDC since proactive disclosure measures came into effect in 2005. We subsequently verified the data set and cross referenced it with Google Maps to derive longitude and latitude. You can find the data set, additional information, and preliminary visualizations here: 

Uniting currently fragmented data offering should be a key component of the Open Government Action Plan, as such I suggest that the Government of Canada assemble a team to undertake similar work across the entire domain. This is a low hanging yet incredibly important fruit that is well within our grasp. Given that I, and a handful of other public servants, have already initiated some of this work, we would be happy to share any resources we used (including code), provide advice, or help as needed.

I am looking forward to hearing back from you


Nicholas Charney

Originally published by Nick Charney at cpsrenewal.ca
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