Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Is Ontario Privacy Commissioner Advocating Open Gov ?

Privacy. The internet.

Scared ?

Old media especially loves to scare us about privacy and the internet. I suspect this strategy keeps a certain type of person from abandoning their television and newspaper and joining the rest of us online where information is interactive, not just served up as product for consumption.

In this context, the title "Ontario's Privacy Commissioner" sounds like someone who can reach through the monitor and handcuff those evil Nigerian prince scammers, who threaten to cheat our parents out of our inheritances.

But Ann Cavoukian showed up on my radar this week for some statements she made recently. These weren't statements about protecting our privacy, but rather providing us with open data from our public institutions. Her document "Access By Design" "The 7 Fundamental Principles" was released in May:

"The demand for government services continually increases, while governments constantly face the need for cost reduction measures. By embracing Access by Design, public institutions can improve their information management practices by eliminating the inefficient process of “reactive” disclosure, and yet provide more streamlined access to public information. Further, citizen groups can also utilize public data to spot inefficiencies in, and improvements for, government services – increasing efficiency by reducing demand on government resources."

She seems to get it. New media has the potential to provide the fabled "third way" for our healthcare systems: publishing performance data so that costs and services provided are easily monitored. The downside to governments, though, is that there is no hiding from open data, and our current Ontario government hasn't distinguished itself as being a risk taker in this area.

But, still, it seems like something is going on. Check this excerpt from the Cornwall Standard Freeholder, ostensibly about new limits on hospital lobbying:

"It will provide access to hospitals' general records, including records relating to operational and financial functions," said Ontario's information and privacy commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, in a news release."

I used to say "stay tuned" at the end of these pieces, but maybe I should say "keep hitting F5".

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