Can We Reveal the Concealed? Democratization of Data


Published on

Presentation made at the Research for Policy Change Workshop hosted by the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto.

Published in: Business, News & Politics
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Can We Reveal the Concealed? Democratization of Data

  1. 1. Can We Reveal the Concealed? Democratization of Data Research for Policy Change Workshop – March 3, 2009 Presented by: Ted Hildebrandt, Director of Social Planning
  2. 2. Who is CDH? <ul><li>Who is Community Development Halton? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Research and development in the not-for-profit sector </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Funded by United Way, Regional government and special project grants </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Intermediary Organization <ul><li>Community Development Halton is an intermediary organization that provides a research and development function that serves </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the voluntary sector </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>municipal and regional government; and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>local grass roots organizations </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. If Buying Shoes Was Like Accessing StatsCan Data ... <ul><li>You could buy shoes, but never try them on beforehand. No shoes available for immediate purchase. </li></ul><ul><li>If you buy shoes and they don’t fit, there is no return policy. </li></ul><ul><li>Due to licensing restrictions, you can only wear your shoes on certain occasions </li></ul><ul><li>You are limited as to who can see the shoes. Even then, one can’t show the whole shoe, maybe only a bit of the shoe at any one time – like the heel. </li></ul><ul><li>You can’t lend your shoes out. If you add some value, like different colour laces, you might be able to show off the laces. </li></ul>
  5. 6. Why Access To Data Important <ul><li>Data is critical for understanding our communities, in the daily decision-making process </li></ul><ul><li>It is essential for the civil society voice – allow to challenge government decisions </li></ul><ul><li>Allows the community sector to ensure important issues are covered – different from government or academia </li></ul><ul><li>What are we allowed to imagine about the state of the nation? </li></ul>
  6. 7. Why Map Demographics? <ul><li>Maps graphically show the spatial associations of social, economic, physical, cultural and civic variables that: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>define the uniqueness of neighbourhoods </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>determine factors risk and resiliency </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>guide planning and community development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>inform decision makers </li></ul></ul>
  7. 8. Why Map Demographics? (continued) <ul><li>Community collaborative mapping brings together citizens, agencies, and governments at all levels to share information on a common theme to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>find solutions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to define problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to allocate resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>develop programs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>understand </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Internet mapping makes information about services, programs, issues, demographics and problems available to all stakeholders free of charge for social planning and community development purposes </li></ul>
  8. 9. Citizen & Public Absent <ul><li>Access to data facilitates important debate about the nature of our communities and development of innovative solutions </li></ul><ul><li>How do we get debate into the public square? How do we engage the citizen and public in important debates in our communities? </li></ul>
  9. 10. Barriers to Access Data <ul><li>The cost is too high </li></ul><ul><li>Licenses that are too restrictive </li></ul><ul><li>It takes too long to get the data </li></ul><ul><li>Refused access </li></ul><ul><li>No one knows where the data are and who has rights over them </li></ul>
  10. 11. $ Cost of Data $ <ul><li>When accessing data, often expensive cost </li></ul><ul><li>Do we have to go to the poor house to study poverty? </li></ul><ul><li>How often has public paid for data? Statistical agencies have monopoly on data </li></ul>
  11. 12. Who Raises Issue? <ul><li>Who in the regular media knows anything about data? </li></ul><ul><li>How are issues of data access being reported? </li></ul>
  12. 13. It's Hard To Find A Cheap Datum <ul><li>With all that's going on in the world, it may seem trivial to write about the price of statistics – Canadian statistics, no less. But some important Canadian data are too expensive and that's harming our ability to create new jobs and new wealth in the knowledge economy. </li></ul><ul><li>In the U.S., data collected by the public's representatives – the government – about the public are viewed as the public's good. The job of government, in the U.S. at least, is to get this information into the hands of the public with as little fuss as possible. It feels different in Canada. The data collected by the public's representative here are viewed as a potential moneymaker for the state, and that's wrong. They're our data and our government ought to give them to us. </li></ul><ul><li>David Akin, Globe & Mail (April 3, 2002) </li></ul>
  13. 14. Truth Carries A Painful User Fee <ul><li>But why should Statistics Canada, a federal agency with a $600 million annual budget and a mandate to &quot;help Canadians better understand their country,&quot; charge a non-profit organization for a missing chapter of the poverty story? </li></ul><ul><li>Why should the United Way have to ferret out a disturbing exception to the positive developments highlighted by Statistics Canada? </li></ul><ul><li>Why should reliable figures on poverty – which have little commercial value – remain out of reach for non-paying clients? </li></ul><ul><li>The United Way report illustrates the drawbacks of letting Statistics Canada decide what the public needs to know. </li></ul><ul><li>Carol Goar, Toronto Star, November 28, 2007 </li></ul>
  14. 15. Reasons for Free Data <ul><li>Here are some reasons why we believe the government should make data available for free, in open formats, to citizens: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We paid for the data collection with our taxes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Access to tax-payer funded goods should not be limited to those who can afford the exorbitant fees </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Citizens can do all sorts of useful things with the data – and help solve problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It’s not open, transparent nor democratic </li></ul></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  15. 16. An Example <ul><li>Here is a quick example of what we are talking about, when we say that government data should be available to citizens for free: </li></ul><ul><li>you would like to start a web site promoting democratic engagement among kids </li></ul><ul><li>you would like implement a feature that allows someone to type in their postal code and find what federal/provincial riding they are in </li></ul><ul><li>you contact the government to get the dataset with this information (which is implemented on a number of sites, including Elections Canada, and Parliament of Canada) </li></ul><ul><li>after many inquiries, you are told to contact Statistics Canada to get the data </li></ul><ul><li>Statistics Canada tells you that the dataset will cost $9,000 and will have a restrictive license </li></ul><ul><li>(example courtesy of </li></ul>
  16. 17. How to Get Involved <ul><li>Document the cost of data – not just what is paid for, but the time spent chasing and figuring out what is out there </li></ul><ul><li>Talk to media and politicians and raise the issue </li></ul><ul><li>Join with other organizations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>CivicAccess ( ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> ( ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visible Government ( ) </li></ul></ul>
  17. 18. Let’s Stop Having to Mortgage the House to Study Homelessness!
  18. 19. Can We Reveal the Concealed? Democratization of Data Ted Hildebrandt Director of Social Planning [email_address]