27 September 2012

BC Information Summit Thoughts

Last week I had the privilege of speaking at two different conferences in Vancouver held in celebration of Right to Know Week.  I want to share some of my thoughts about the first one here.  I will post another article to cover my thoughts about the second conference.

The first event I spoke at was the BC Information Summit held by the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA).  FIPA is a non-partisan, non-profit society founded in 1991 to promote and defend freedom of information and privacy rights in Canada.  The event focused on open data and Government 2.0 as well as current privacy issues arising out of current provincial IT efforts.  I believe some of the conference was captured on video.  If I find out where it's posted I will let folks know here.

Many interesting topics were discussed but the two that resonated most with me with respect to open data were, 1) that open data stands on the shoulders of many people who have worked hard for us to have the right to access government records; and 2) open data is no substitute for FOI.  In other words, while open data represents a significant opportunity and can and will save money by governments being proactive in making public data available readily available, the right to access records held by our governments is a fundamental right and we should promote and exercise that right.  

It's with some embarrassment that I admit I have never filed an Freedom of Information (FOI) request to access public information.  This is a fundamental thing to be able to do in a free and democratic society and I live in a free society and I haven't used that right, not because I haven't wanted to, but partly because of what I perceive as the work involved and partly because I have somehow thought that it's wasteful for me to do.  Like my questions are not important enough or generally applicable enough to exercise this right.  That's just not true.

With respect to the BC provincial government we have the option to ask for data to be released as open data via the Data BC site, but additionally, if we just want access to some data we have the right to make an FOI request for datasets.  Of course data obtained this way will not fall under the BC Open Government License, but for some public data that may be sufficient for now.  The folks releasing data have limited resources and are prioritizing releases of data the best they can with the resources available.  FOI is one more way we can help figure out what's important.

I see the Freedom of Information community and the Open Data community as having little overlap so far in terms of people and membership, yet much in common in terms of interest and opportunities.  I will be looking for ways for the two communities to complement each other and help our public servants with their open data efforts.

I will also be filing an FOI request sometime in the near future to learn more about how it works.

12 September 2012

Why Supporting the CIRA Election Matters

Canada is a world leader in internet technologies.  We have some of the brightest and most innovative people and companies in the world inventing new technologies that are shaping the future and giving us a competitive edge.

We typically think about the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) in terms of the .CA Internet Domain.   CIRA is the organization given authority by the Government of Canada to act as the registry for the .CA Internet Domain and to provide professional registry services.  However, CIRA also has the responsibility to develop, carry out and support other Internet-related activities in Canada and to do things to attain all of these objectives.  Thus, it’s a wider scope than name registration.  While name registration is important, other factors also are becoming increasingly important for the Canadian Internet.  

The internet is becoming integral to how businesses and governments operate as well as how citizens of Canada interact with each other and with organizations.  In addition, a highly effective, functioning and open internet is critical to supporting the flow of open data and information needed to solve many of the challenges facing governments and citizens.  

As a platform for innovation and job creation in Canada, the stability, sovereignty and integrity of our Canadian Internet is critical for Canadian businesses to be able rely on it for their business needs and continue to invest in research and technology development that will keep us at the forefront of the internet frontier.

The internet is vastly different than it was when CIRA was created in 1998.  Back then, .ca name registration was the primary objective and other internet related issues were secondary.  Today it is imperative that the Canadian Internet be recognized as key infrastructure and as something that Canadians rely upon and are key stakeholders in.  To date, Canada has taken a largely “go with the flow” approach to how we operate our part of the Internet.  We’ve had a lot of success, but increasingly we are seeing challenges that we need to address to ensure continuing success.  Challenges include technical challenges such the deployment and adoption of of IPv6 and DNSSEC, integrity challenges such as corporate influence, and political challenges such as interference by foreign governments.  Meeting these challenges requires concerted effort by Canadians who are dedicated and passionate and also up to technical demands of the problems.  

For these reasons and others, I am a member of CIRA (any Canadian who owns a .CA domain name can apply for a CIRA membership).  Being a member enables me to have a say in how the Canadian Internet is run, as well as vote for the candidates that I believe are best able to meet our upcoming challenges in the Board of Directors elections.  

I will be voting for Kevin McArthur in the upcoming election.  Kevin has many skills and talents.  In this context, the ones that I see as critically important are that he understands the Internet, the technologies and what is at stake for us as Canadians; he is a successful business person, entrepreneur and innovator; he is a supportive and outspoken community leader; and he is passionate about what’s best for Canadians.  You can find out more about him here.

If you take a moment and think about how the internet has affected your life and your work, and how much you rely on it I hope you’ll agree that it’s worth your time to take part in this election.  I invite you to register with CIRA, become a member and cast your vote.