Monday, 01 September 2014, 7:28 am

A more open government could mean ‘gold’ for Ontario

MPP Jim Bradley, minister of the environment, and MPP John Milloy, minister of government services, attending a roundtable discussion on open government at Niagara College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake campus. PHOTO BY NICK FEARNSBy NICK FEARNS
Staff Writer
The push for more open government and information sharing is something that Ontario is a “little bit behind on.”
John Milloy, minister of government services, admitted Ontario has work to do. That information can be used to help researchers, but can also be used by entrepreneurs to create jobs.
“We’re looking at putting, based on what’s happening in other jurisdictions, hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of data sets will be available for free,” said Milloy. “There’s gold there. Talk to anyone in the high tech world, so much of it is about information.”
The minister toured the college where he learned about some of the research being done here with information from the province.
Mike Duncan, industrial research chair at Niagara College, showed the minister how they had created algorithms that could allow farmers to see a 20 per cent increase in crop yield as well as 20 per cent less loss.
Duncan showed the possibility of tracking which parts of a farmer’s fields are not producing so those areas can be avoided.
Milloy also attended a round table discussion featuring many officials from Niagara College and Brock University as well as other community figures.
The discussion was aimed at discovering what types of data sets are most in demand so they can be released first.
Kithio Mwaba, director of government relations and policy for the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, was excited for what open government can mean for the businesses of Niagara saying, “Open data can catapult the private sector.”
Mwaba pointed out the example of Kitchener. Kitchener established an more open policy regarding their data which was used by small and medium sized firms to develop apps that track garbage pick-up and snow removal.
Open government has been one of the initiatives pushed by Premier Kathleen Wynne. In a letter to Ontarians Wynne wrote, “We must also unlock public data so that you can help us solve problems and find new ways of doing things.”
“I believe that government data belongs to the people of Ontario and so we will make government data open by default, limiting access only to safeguard privacy, security and confidentiality.”
Jim Bradley, member of provincial parliament for the riding of St. Catharines and minister of the environment, attended the roundtable discussion.
He said the move to open government “will lead to better decision making and policy,” adding more available information means more pressure on the government to act.
For more information on the release of data in Ontario visit the Ontario governments website at
www.ontario.ca/open.

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