Making Open Government Work

A new report, published by the Brookings Institute, has identified six features of open government programs that give them the highest likelihood of success. According to the report:

Where open government initiatives have been effective, proponents have clearly identified the principals they were trying to reach and publicized information that was important and accessible to those principals. In addition, at least one of the following conditions held: either the principals could respond meaningfully on their own, or they could do so with the support of government officials, or they could do so through a coordinated effort by the principals to change the behavior of their representatives in government. Where these conditions are met, open government initiatives have been shown to improve the quality of governance.

Read the full report here.

Protecting Public Sector Organizations from Ransomware

As ransomware becomes an increasingly dangerous threat for public sector organizations, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) has published a fact sheet with information on how organizations can protect themselves. Ransomware is a type of malware that accesses a computer (or network), encrypts its files and then demands payment to restore access. In June of this year the University of Calgary paid a $20,000 ransom after an unknown hacker committed a ransomware cyber-attack.

Read the fact sheet here.

IPC Weighs In on Personal Email and Instant Messaging

The Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) released a report in June outlining his position on the use of instant messaging and private email in Ontario’s public institutions. It presents the IPC’s view that both personal email and instant messages are subject to Ontario’s information access and privacy laws. According to the IPC:

All public servants should be aware records relating to an institution’s business that are created, sent or received through instant messaging or personal email accounts are subject to Ontario’s access and privacy laws. The IPC recommends that all institutional leaders strictly control the use of these tools when doing business. If it is necessary to use these tools, institutions should implement appropriate policy and technical measures to ensure that records are saved.

Read the full report here.

New Opportunities for Local Governments to Harness the Data Revolution

The City of Toronto’s Institute for Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG) has released a new paper exploring the opportunities for local governments to harness the data revolution. Specifically the paper examines the experiences of the City of Toronto and the City of London (England), and proposes a series of factors that can help cities make better use of big data, including:

  • Developing comprehensive strategies based on an understanding of economic strengths and the community’s role in the global production chain
  • Promoting the start-up and scale-up of digital innovation, and trying to link innovation to the community’s challenges
  • Building relationships with higher orders of government and local universities

Read the full report here:

Cities, Data, and Digital Innovation 

Auditor General Releases Annual Report

The Auditor General released her annual report today. This years report covers a wide range of issues from the province’s home care services to economic development funding. Notably the report provided the AG’s latest review of the Ministry of Community and Social Services’ (MCSS) troubled Social Assistance Management System. On SAMS the AG found that MCSS launched the program despite not property piloting or testing it during the development phase.

Auditor General:

The Ministry launched (the program) anyway because it considered the risks of dealing the launch greater than the risks of launching a system that was not fully ready…Further, the decision to launch was based on incomplete and inaccurate information about SAMS’ readiness.

As of November 2015, SAMS glitches had resulted in $89 million in potential overpayments, and $51 in potential underpayments, with the system itself costing the government an additional $41 million more than what was allocated.

The report also noted that Ontario electricity consumers paid $37 billion more than necessary from 2006 to 2014 as a result of poor government planning, unnecessarily high green energy costs, and poor service from Hydro One.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • CAS investigations of child protection cases are taking too long and often are not completed at all
  • The provinces planning process for electricity infrastructure has essential broken down over the past decade
  • Eighty percent of the province’s economic development funding goes to companies that were invited to apply through an unadvertised process
  • Inspections and follow-up of complaints stemming from long-term care homes are falling behind
  • Few of the issues raised in an audit of Community Care Access Centres five years ago have been addressed
  • The province does not coordinate or track its investments in research and innovation
  • Ontario does not have a coordinated plan for cleaning up contaminated sites across the province
  • Hydro One’s assets are degrading, resulting in service outages

For more:

Auditor General: 2015 Annual Report

Ontario to Make Data “Open by Default”

On Friday, the government of Ontario released new details about it’s Open Data Directive, which will take effect on April 1, 2016. As part of this directive, Ontario ministries and agencies will be required to make all data public, unless it falls under one of a number of exemptions for privacy, legal, confidentiality, security, or commercially sensitive reasons.

For more:

Ontario’s Open Data Directive

Ontario’s Open Government Initiative 

Ontario’s Open Data Catalogue