Open government requires data to be published in useful formats

Complaint: Industry Canada refused to release a copy of Corporations Canada’s main database, citing subsection 68(a).

Investigation: The OIC determined that the database’s search engine was limited to a maximum of 200 results, not enough to render the information publicly available, as subsection 68(a) requires. Industry Canada subsequently increased the number of search results from 200 to 500, while maintaining that the information was publicly available.

Outcome: The OIC stressed to the institution the importance of providing data in a format useful to requesters. Industry Canada subsequently released the complete database in electronic format.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • Open government principles require governments to publish data in formats useful to the public.
  • The duty to assist requires institutions to provide information in the format in which requesters wish to receive it.
  • To effectively move towards a more open government, institutions must consider how they make information available to the public, and address issues of access and data re-use.
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