The recent Globe and Mail article Can Access to Information be Fixed by Steven Chase outlines the deplorable state of information laws in Canada. In addition to having been found to be the least accessible government amongst five parliamentary democracies by a study published last week in the Government Information Quarterly, the recent government has further closed our window into government activity.
However, the article failed to outline one part of a solution: Open-Data. Open-Data is a global movement towards proactive disclosure of information which has taken root in the United Kingdom, the United States and most Canadian municipalities. Not only is access to information essential for the functioning of government; the right to obtain this information in a machine readable format should be enshrined in law. Machine readable information is information that is properly a catalogued and offered in open standards – think open databases instead of scanned PDF documents. By offering government information on a centralized and easily accessible platform (say data.gc.ca), information officers will reduce their workload, save taxpayers money, improve government efficiency, and be able to focus on the more challenging requests to information that require specific intervention.