“Information democracy” is one of the cornerstones of a conservation economy.

Much of our work aims to make better information more available to more people, especially to those typically disenfranchised in decision making processes. Some examples of this work include: TerraTruth, an open-source mapping tool; ThisFish, a consumer-facing seafood traceability system; and the Aboriginal Mapping Network, which provides a place for First Nation’s technicians to share information and skills.

We’ve also taken the government to task for its data access process in fisheries. We have spent a great deal of time and effort to obtain, and then make sense of, fisheries data needed for our Fisheries Diversification Model.

So when the federal government re-launched its data portal with the statement “Open data is Canada’s new natural resource”, (see this CBC story), we were both excited and skeptical. Even more surprising (and welcome) was the Prime Minister’s announcement that Canada would adopt the Open Data Charter. See this post by open government activist David Eaves.

Having now had a bit of time to explore the revamped site, open.canada.ca, it’s clear that improving the search and formatting functions of the data portal site is of little use if the data are not there. A search for some subjects of interest to our fisheries team, such as ‘groundfish’ or ‘lobster’, uncovered zero results. The department of Fisheries and Oceans has 21 datasets in the portal, and most of them are nothing more than lists of documents in their internal library – not the contents of the documents themselves. Most useful datasets are still siloed at the department, in various levels of accessibility. So we’ll be making use of the “suggest a dataset” feature, and continuing with our efforts to demonstrate the power of releasing information for all.