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Why startups should ‘sync up’ on open data

 

Source: Financial Post

 

Startup Day on the Hill: Why startups should ‘sync up’ on open data

Philippe de Montigny | December 2, 2014 10:40 AM ET
More from Noah Love | @noahlove

Tony Clement, Treasury Board President, centre, at Startup Day on the Hill.

Philippe de MontignyTony Clement, Treasury Board President, centre, at Startup Day on the Hill.

Open data portals have been popping up across the country, giving the public online access to a wide array of government data sets.

The movement, largely led by the federal government, is slowly getting traction, with municipalities and provinces opening up their books. The information ranges from real-time weather conditions to municipalities’ 311 service calls to the number of dairy cows in each province.

But why does this matter to entrepreneurs?

Tony Clement, Treasury Board President, called open data Canada’s 21st century natural resource. “There’s a lot of data out there that can be used in new ways to make people’s lives easier,” Mr. Clement told Startup Day on the Hill delegates in a panel discussion at Château Laurier in Ottawa on Nov. 26.

“It’s a huge driver of positive social change and, of course, by virtue pushing more data out, it makes government more accountable.”

But beyond making it easier for Canadians to keep track of what the government is doing — including all contracts it awards that are more than $10,000 — it’s a chance for entrepreneurs to unlock that data’s economic potential.

The federal government revamped a portal (open.canada.ca) linking to nearly 220,000 data sets it hopes startups will use to create new applications, Mr. Clement said, adding he would like to see the data sets provided by these various levels of government more connected toward what he calls a “one-window approach.”

Chris Johnson, leader of Startup Winnipeg, said he is encouraged to see more and more cities launching open data sites — something his city’s newly elected mayor Brian Bowman had campaigned on. “For the first time in history, we’re starting to see this data open up that we can capitalize on from a ROI perspective,” he said.

Mr. Clement highlighted Waterloo, Ont.-based Electric Sheep’s newRoots app, which matches new Canadians with cities by tapping into federal data on income, climate, housing and labour industries. The app won the grand prize this year at the Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE), a 48-hour coding sprint where teams aim to design the best app using data from the portal. He said three finalists also received follow-up venture capital funding.

“It really does come down to engaging,” Mr. Johnson said, hoping to see more partnerships form between government and entrepreneurs.

The next CODE competition takes place Feb. 20 to 22, with $40,000 in cash prizes.