Government officials across the country have such high hopes for the open data movement that a number of big names will make public appearances for next week’s Open Data Day hackathons.
Treasury Board president Tony Clement, an active blogger who is responsible for the federal government’s open data policy, will make an appearance at Vancouver’s city hall, his office said.
In Montreal, where some 120 are registered for the event at the Societe des Arts Technologiques on Saint Laurent Blvd., Laurent Blanchard, president of the city’s executive board and Bernard Drainville, provincial minister for democratic institutions will give addresses.
Even U.S. President Barak Obama is getting into it, although a day early. Open Data Day is Saturday Feb. 23 around the world. In the U.S. the White House is hosting an event Feb. 22.
The aim is not to impress voters but to encourage businesses and citizens to take advantage of the increasing number of public sector datasets being released.
“Historically, the open data movement was about geeks and hackers doing it for democracy and transparency,” said Stephane Guidoin, one of the organizers of the Montreal event and a director of OpenNorth, a non-profit group that develops open data projects.
“But more and more we’re seeing people from the academic and business world looking at the value.”
For example, he said, a Montreal-based company called Ajah sells a service that has tracks 10,000 public agencies and private foundations with funding programs for non-profit organizations. The database, used by agencies looking for grants, in part uses open data from governments.
About 120 people have registered for the Montreal event.
Guidoin would like to see people with experience in analyzing financial data there to help make use of the city of Montreal budget data that has been released, as well as people with a business background who can imagine how to leverage government open data.
In Vancouver, “city hall has been really supportive,” said David Eaves, an open data expert and one of the local event’s organizers.
Copying an idea from the city of Ottawa, Vancouver municipal staff will break attendees into small “open data dating” groups, where they will learn what city datasets are public. Hopefully that will spark ideas not only about what could be done with what’s available, but also datasets that could be released by the city.
Most of the events across the country will have time set aside for so-called hackathons, down-and-dirty programming to create quick apps to when people’s appetites.
Event organizers aren’t just looking for computer newbies; they also hope some veteran software developers also show up to teach, and, maybe be inspired.
So far events have been scheduled at Victoria’s city hall; Kwartzlab in Kitchener, Ont.; and Unlab in London, Ont..
(By Howard Solomon)