Open government 101

The first time many of us heard of Open Government may have been in 1980, in the pilot episode of the BBC series “Yes Minister.” The first policy idea of newly-appointed minister Jim Hacker was being “open”; giving citizens the chance to connect with the people they had just elected.

Long-serving civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby was dismayed at this idea, explaining that open government was an absurd concept—one must choose between being open or governing.

Today, citizens and governments across the globe disagree with Sir Humphrey’s outdated ideas. Indeed more than 68 countries have joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a multilateral initiative that advocates openness within government to promote transparency and empower citizens.

Canada joined the OGP in 2011 and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat released our first Action Plan in 2012. This plan was founded on three pillars: Open Information; Open Data, and Open Dialogue. Our second Action Plan, which builds on the original commitments and adds new commitments in areas such as government spending and contracting data, will be completed this summer.

At Library and Archives Canada (LAC), our main commitment to Open Government centres on open information. We are committed to increasing access to archived federal documents among LAC’s holdings by removing restrictions on this information wherever possible. In February of 2015, we wrote a blog post about Block Review. We’re happy to report that this work continues and that we have now opened almost 18 million pages of records in our holdings! We’re also working to ensure that, wherever possible, government records will be open when transferred to us in the future.

This past summer, we told you about the work we’ve been doing with historical datasets—migrating datasets from our holdings to Canada’s Open Data Portal. To date, we have migrated over 40 datasets. Keep checking our blog to keep up to date with our new additions to the Portal.

Enough about us! How can you get involved? Open Government is about facilitating a two-way conversation. Add your voice to the conversation—the best place to start is the Open Government portal. It’s a one-stop shop for everything the federal government is doing in the Open Government arena (including current consultation opportunities).

Keep checking back for more Open Government updates!

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