Open Government is a new movement whereby governments around the world are making their vast data holdings available to the public to use in the development of new knowledge products, to support more evidence-based decision-making, and to make government more transparent.
Government data holdings range across every area of human interest, from health and finance to labour markets, culture and the environment. These datasets are said to be to the knowledge economy what natural resources were to the industrial economy: they are the raw material from which wealth in the knowledge economy will be created. They are among our most important public assets for the future.
The Canadian Geomatics Community Round Table (CGCRT) is a multi-stakeholder body whose members come from across the geomatics community,1 including governments, private-sector organizations, NGOs, universities and colleges, and data/service consumers. It operates as a collaborative body that neither has nor seeks the authority to make decisions that are binding on its members or on other organizations. 1 Geomatics is the discipline of gathering, storing, processing, and delivering geographic information.
At present, the CGCRT’s primary focus is on the development and delivery of a pan-Canadian geomatics strategy. The origins of this project are rooted in major technological changes in the field of geomatics, underway for more than a decade, and in the economic opportunities created by opening up the access to government geospatial data.
In the fall of 2007, Canadian governments launched a country-wide consultation process to re-think the way the geomatics community operates in a digital world. The final report identified eight “elements” on which a new national strategy was to be based.
However, it soon became clear that these elements were less a strategy than elements that needed to be included in a strategy. For example, while the report called on the community to collaborate more effectively to modernize the sector, it provided no real direction on how to make collaboration happen.
Over the next three years, a second wave of conferences and meetings was convened to discuss what a real strategy to modernize the sector would look like. During this period, two key developments took place.
First, a Round Table was formed and eventually emerged as an independent body whose main purpose was to act as a multi-stakeholder advisory group to existing government bodies. However, views on this began to change quickly, which lead to the second development.
Some participants argued that the geomatics community needed a credible and influential body that could propose and advocate for broad directions for the community as a whole. To compete globally and to become leaders in the global geomatics industry, the Canadian sector needed to distinguish itself; it needed to find a “Canadian niche.”