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  • Faith Marcel

Knowledge Media Design - Open Data Review

I'm happy to share this first blog post for this Portfolio as a sample of some of my work within the Knowledge Media Design- Collaborative Specialization at the University of Toronto. In future posts, I'll continue to share my ongoing work in the areas of Language, Knowledge Media Technologies and Education.


Abstract


Canada’s commitment to Open Data (OD) government policies includes a national action plan outlining strategies to improve the quality and quantity of OD released in compliance with the G8 Open Data Charter Principles (Government of Canada, 2014, 2018). The following OD literature and market review provides an examination of twelve sources; international, national and local, which are briefly summarized and critically analyzed to provide a snapshot of the global OD landscape and to identify gaps and opportunities within the marketplace for the further development of effective and ethical uses of OD, which are in line with Canada’s international commitments. An annotated review of relevant sources is provided and divided into four main categories: International OD Policies and Strategies, Canadian OD Policies and Commitments, OD Application Landscape, and Visualization and Application Examples. Sources include peer-reviewed journal articles, research studies, policy reports, browser and mobile applications analyses, database galleries and examples. Through the integrated analysis of these sources, gaps have been identified, revealing opportunities for investigation and expansion of OD applications and artifacts in the areas of education, science and technology, languages and linguistics, history and archeology, labour, law, public safety and real estate. Through a careful examination of the research outlined in this report, it is evident that opportunities exist in both the public and private sectors to take action in the implementation of Open Data Government (ODG) strategies and recommendations and in further research and development of applications and services making use of OD, which will ultimately lead to enhanced community involvement and citizen engagement.


Introduction

Governments around the world are adopting policies, procedures and and processes to utilize Open Data (OD) for the purposes of promoting transparency, accountability and enhancing citizen engagement. In aiming to achieve these objectives, Canada has become a leader on the world stage in creating policies and recommendations for effective and ethical uses of OD (Castro, 2015). The purpose of this literature and market review is to gain a broader understanding of the OD landscape in Canada and in other parts of the world where the concept of OD has appeared in the research. Some applications and examples of OD artifacts are explored, and gaps and opportunities for further research and development have been identified. Some of the keywords identified through the process of this research project have been visualized in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Visualization of Keywords Used in this Research


The analytical framework of this research begins with a broad investigation of international policies and strategies for the usage of OD followed by an analysis of a review of policy documentation specific to the Canadian context. Important social and ethical considerations have emerged in the research and are also briefly discussed in this review. Furthermore, analysis of research into the numbers and categories of OD applications has been examined, and subsequently, examples of databases of applications and artifacts making use of OD are explored.


Annotated Review


International Open Data Policies and Strategies

Castro, D. (2015). Open Data in the G8: A Review of Progress on the Open Data Charter. Retrieved from http://www2.datainnovation.org/2015-open-data-g8.pdf

This policy report, published by the Centre for Data Innovation, based in Washington DC, provides a current assessment of the OD initiatives and efforts in G8 countries. Scores were assigned to each country (see Table 1) based on how well each met the 5 main principles in the G8 Open Data Charter (Appendix 1). This information is important for this research, as Canada ranked second in the group with top scores in three of the five categories (ensure high quality and quantity of data, make data usable by all and release data for innovation). Recommendations for improvement are provided for each country along with action plans; however, the report does not specifically address potential opportunities for collaboration of G8 countries with other global partners to expand this worldwide initiative.


Huijboom, N., & Van den Broek, T. (2011). Open data: an international comparison of strategies. European journal of ePractice, 12(1), 4-16.

Authors of this peer-reviewed journal article report on the results of an inquiry for the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research into the OD strategies of five countries: Australia, Denmark, Spain, the UK and the US. An examination of the main features of each country’s strategic plan, obstacles to success and driving forces of progress reveals differing approaches and gaps in OD policy planning in each country. While examining merely five countries cannot provide overarching generalizations on the global state of OD, taking a closer look at specific drivers and barriers to the implementation of OD policy planning in each country (see Appendix 3) and comparing them to Canada’s policies, as also seen in Castro (2015), can help inform researchers and policy makers, both in Canada and globally, to overcome existing or potential barriers and improve their OD government strategies.

Molloy, J.C. (2011). The Open Knowledge Foundation: Open Data Means Better Science. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001195

The author defines open knowledge data, and she outlines the benefits of OD to society in general and in the context of scientific research. In addition, she outlines the importance of ensuring OD availability and accessibility in science. A case is made for the usefulness of OD and how specific strategies, principles and the formation of working groups can be applied toward the creation of an open scientific knowledge commons. A potential weakness in this article lies in the fact that the author identifies “cultural reluctance” as one among many barriers in openly publishing data; however it is not clear through this article how to overcome this important issue. Further applications of scientific uses for OD and research would be useful on this topic.


Gurstein, M. B. (2011). Open data: Empowering the empowered or effective data use for everyone? First Monday Peer-Reviewed Journal on the Internet. Retrieved from http://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3316/2764.

This peer-reviewed journal article examines some of the sociological and ethical aspects of the use of open public data and the importance of considering issues of accessibility for the poorest and most marginalized members of society. Gurstein (2011) proposes a definition and model for the effective use of OD (Appendix 2) for the purposes of greater public transparency, and enhanced citizen engagement with respect to public policies and programs. While this document may not yet be a comprehensive or exhaustive resource, with the proliferation of projects in OD movement and in OGD, governments should be well-informed of ways to implement policies and laws to protect and ensure access for the most vulnerable of our society and take Gurstein’s recommendations into careful consideration.

Canadian Open Data Policies and Commitments

Open Data: The Way of the Future. (2014) Ottawa, Canada. Parliament. House of Commons, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/hoc/Committee/412/OGGO/Reports/RP6670517/oggorp05/oggorp05-e.pdf

This Canadian government research report outlines the current state of OD in the Canadian landscape. The researchers met with international, national (federal, provincial, municipal government) and industry stakeholders to gather data and discuss current OD uses, initiatives, and opportunities for improved governance, and policy and innovation around OD. The report also makes reference to Canada’s commitment to the G8 Open Data Charter and Canada’s agreement to implement five of the foundational OD principles by December 2015: Open Data by Default; Quantity and Quality; Useable by All; Releasing Data for Improved Governance and Releasing Data for Innovation. Thirty-one recommendations are suggested to assist Canada in achieving greater compliance with the G8 charter; however, a weakness or further opportunity in this report would be more specific action plans to accompany these recommendations. Further detailed exploration and consideration of these recommendations will be useful in the next stages of our research project for Toronto City Hall.

Open Data Policy -Accessing City Hall, City of Toronto. (2012). Retrieved from http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=7e27e03bb8d1e310VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD

This online policy document outlines the City of Toronto’s policy statement on OD and its commitment to Open Government. The site provides action items and guiding principles on managing city datasets. One of the potential gaps in this source and opportunities to explore can be found in the principle of Primacy, which states: “Public dissemination will allow users to verify that information was collected properly and recorded accurately.” (City of Toronto, 2012) This implies that the responsibility lies with the user to verify the accuracy of the information provided. Opportunities for tools or services for internal authentication or verification of data could provide greater accuracy rates and confidence in the OD movement.


Open Data Application Landscape


Loutas, N., Varitimou, A., & Peristeras, V. (2013). Unraveling the mystery of Open Government Data Apps. Retrieved from http://www.w3.org/2012/06/pmod/pmod2012_submission_11.pdf

This research article, funded by the Science Foundation of Ireland, explores and highlights the need for further exploration and research of open government data (OGD) apps both in European and global contexts. The researchers located and analyzed 350 OGD apps, which were then sorted and classified into 13 categories (see Graph 1) with entertainment, transportation and government and civics noted as the top three categories. This recent study reveals a lack of apps in the fields of public safety and law, education and real estate. The research also indicates that there are opportunities to make better use of semantic technologies and linked OGD apps in the future.


Sandoval-Almazan, R., Gil-Garcia, J. R., Luna-Reyes, L. F., Luna, D. E., & Rojas-Romero, Y. (2012). Open government 2.0: Citizen empowerment through open data, web and mobile apps. In Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (pp. 30-33). ACM.

Authors of this international conference proceeding investigated the use of OD and mobile government apps from 10 countries of the UN 2010 e-Government survey (see Table 2).

Research was presented on the number of apps, relevant categories of apps and some examples from each category. Results of this research are problematic due to the missing information from a number of countries, including Canada, as indicated in Table 1; however, the researchers recognize this shortcoming, and indicate their challenges in locating the data, and further investigation would be required in the current landscape to provide a more complete picture and determine where existing gaps may have been already filled.


Visualization and Application Examples

Bradley, J. C., Lancashire, R. J., Lang, A. S., & Williams, A. J. (2009). The Spectral Game: leveraging Open Data and crowdsourcing for education. Journal of cheminformatics, 1(1), 1-10.

This peer-reviewed research study presents and analysis of a web-based educational software program called The Spectral Game (also available in a virtual 3D version in Second Life), which utilizes OD and crowdsourcing to help students learn and practice undergraduate-level organic chemistry (Figure 2).

Both the article and the artifact are of particular interest given the aforementioned relative dearth of apps identified in the field of education, and more specifically in the sciences. The app draws from the ChemSpider open source online database with over 21 million chemical structures and other shared scientific data related to chemistry. Although the user interface of this app could be updated in a more modern design, the unique way in which the researchers have leveraged OD to create a relevant and useful app for science education illustrates the possibilities and potential for countless other apps in the field of science education.

Lehmann, J., Isele, R., Jakob, M., Jentzsch, A., Kontokostas, D., Mendes, P. N., ... & Bizer, C. (2014). DBpedia-a large-scale, multilingual knowledge base extracted from wikipedia. Semantic Web Journal, 5, 1-29.

The authors of this peer-reviewed journal article describe the architecture, usage and potential of the OD sourced project DBpedia, a crowd-sourced online database created for the purpose of extracting vast amounts of structured multilingual open data from Wikipedia, linking it to other online datasets and making it accessible on browsers and mobile under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 licensing. While Wikipedia is able to provide limited search capabilities to its data, DBpedia was created to make sophisticated multilingual data queries (see Figure 3) to the rich datasets in this worldwide open resource described by researchers Auer et al. (2007) as “a nucleus for a web of open data” (p. 1).

Use cases for this open-data resource are in natural language processing, digital libraries and archives, knowledge exploration and other areas of question answering in 100 languages; however, it is evident that with continued community contributions and development, further broader applications of DBpedia could also become possible.

Apps & Visualizations. (n.d.). Retrieved July 12, 2020, from http://data.surrey.ca/related

This site provides a collection of apps and visualizations created using datasets from the city of Surrey, British Colombia. Eleven categories of mobile and browser apps are indicated on the site (land use and development, infrastructure, environment, transportation, recreation and culture, business and economy, community services, local government, imagery, health and safety, finance and miscellaneous). The categories with the fewest applications representing possible gaps or potential opportunities for further development or exploration in our upcoming research and development are: finance, health and safety, imagery (visualizations) and local government.

Open Data Apps Gallery. (2020). Government of Canada. Retrieved September 29, 2015, from

http://open.canada.ca/en/apps

This site provides a collection of artifacts, which are applications, both mobile and web based, that make use of OD from the Government of Canada. The site provides a l

ist of categories of the applications and filtering options to select applications contributed and published by public user contributions, the Government of Canada or Canadian OD Experience contest winners and participants. A number of categories contain very few apps (categories and numbers of apps seen in Figure 6), and the categories of Science and Technology, Language and Linguistics (Figure 7), Labour, History and Archeology emerge as areas of opportunity for future and further development of OD applications. A brief analysis of the dataset categories on the Open Data Portal connected to this page also reveals fewer datasets in these categories. Additionally, the visualization of the applications of this website could be improved and optimized for more efficient viewing and searching of the site’s sources.

Conclusion

This literature and market review provides an environmental scan of some of the published research and applications of open data, internationally, nationally and locally. Through the analysis of the literature, emerging themes of gaps in the marketplace have revealed potential in a number of areas. Continued policy development for safe, effective and ethical uses of OD will be necessary for the protection of all citizens, and for the creation of strategies to continue to engage citizens in the use of OD to enhance and enrich their lives within their communities. Government, industry and private citizens can take advantage of opportunities in gaps in the marketplace identified through this research for the future development of OD applications in the areas of education, science and technology, languages and linguistics, labour, history and archeology, law, public safety and real estate.

As Molloy (2011) indicates that “better science—in terms of transparency, reproducibility, increased efficiency, and ultimately a greater benefit to society—depends on open data” (p.4), this review also illustrates that the efficient, effective and ethical uses of OD can also have the potential for greater far-reaching benefits to countless diverse areas of local, national and international governments and societies.

References

Auer, S., Bizer, C., Kobilarov, G., Lehmann, J., Cyganiak, R., & Ives, Z. (2007). Dbpedia: A nucleus for a web of open data (pp. 722-735). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Bradley, J. C., Lancashire, R. J., Lang, A. S., & Williams, A. J. (2009). The Spectral Game: leveraging Open Data and crowdsourcing for education. Journal of cheminformatics, 1(1), 1-10.

Canada's Action Plan on Open Government 2014-16. (2014). Retrieved October 4, 2015, from http://open.canada.ca/en/content/canadas-action-plan-open-government-2014-16

Canada's Action Plan on Open Government 2018-20. (2018). Retrieved July 12, 2020, from https://open.canada.ca/en/content/canadas-2018-2020-national-action-plan-open-government

Castro, D. (2015). Open Data in the G8: A Review of Progress on the Open Data Charter. Retrieved from http://www2.datainnovation.org/2015-open-data-g8.pdf

Gurstein, M. B. (2011) Open data: Empowering the empowered or effective data use for everyone? Retrieved from http://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3316/2764..

Huijboom, N., & Van den Broek, T. (2011). Open data: an international comparison of strategies. European journal of ePractice, 12(1), 4-16.

Loutas, N., Varitimou, A., & Peristeras, V. (2013). Unraveling the mystery of Open Government Data Apps. Retrieved from: http://www.w3.org/2012/06/pmod/pmod2012_submission_11.pdf

Lehmann, J., Isele, R., Jakob, M., Jentzsch, A., Kontokostas, D., Mendes, P. N., ... & Bizer, C. (2014). DBpedia-a large-scale, multilingual knowledge base extracted from Wikipedia. Semantic Web Journal, 5, 1-29.

Molloy, J.C. (2011). The Open Knowledge Foundation: Open Data Means Better Science. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001195

Sandoval-Almazan, R., Gil-Garcia, J. R., Luna-Reyes, L. F., Luna, D. E., & Rojas-Romero, Y. (2012). Open government 2.0: Citizen empowerment through open data, web and mobile apps. In Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (pp. 30-33). ACM.

Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. Open Data: The Way of the Future. (2014). Ottawa, ON, CAN: Canada. Parliament. House of Commons, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/hoc/Committee/412/OGGO/Reports/RP6670517/oggorp05/oggorp05-e.pdf

Ubaldi, B. (2013). “Open Government Data: Towards Empirical Analysis of Open Government Data Initiatives”, OECD Working Papers on Public Governance, No. 22, OECD Publishing. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5k46bj4f03s7-en





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