In the lead-up to next week’s Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) Spring Convention, Cybera is offering its support for the motion brought forth by Smoky Lake County regarding municipal access to provincial data. In its motion put forward on February 23, Smoky Lake noted that data is vital in supporting informed decision-making by governments at all levels, but many municipalities lack the funds or resources to access expensive data subscriptions. It therefore called on the RMA to encourage prioritized access to open data for municipalities when advocating to the Government of Alberta.
For over a decade, Cybera has been at the forefront of promoting digital transformation and access to open data and technologies in Alberta. Through our work in providing infrastructure and training in cloud computing, data science, and machine learning, we have helped businesses, organizations and municipalities across the province harness the power of open data to drive growth and progress.
One such initiative was Cybera’s partnership with the RMA in 2021 on the Bridging the Connectivity Challenge hackathon, where participants harnessed open data to build case studies and evidence on the need for improved rural broadband access in Alberta. This evidence could not have been created without access to open data sources such as the CIRA internet speed test collected by RMA members.
It is Cybera’s belief that open data can enable concrete decisions by providing insights into complex issues. By analyzing datasets, municipalities can identify patterns, trends, and correlations that can inform decision-making processes. This can help them optimize public services, improve infrastructure, and address social and environmental challenges. For example, if a county was wishing to rezone part of its community for a commercial industrial park adjacent to a highway, its staff could leverage datasets from Alberta Transportation to determine the traffic impacts created by such development.
Progress is currently underway
While we support the spirit and intent of Smoky Lake’s resolution, we suggest the phrase “WHEREAS provincial ministries have occasionally proven unreasonably data-protectionist” be withdrawn. While we understand the frustrations communities experience with the often cumbersome processes to access data, we believe this motion can be a catalyst to strengthen work that has already begun within the Ministry of Service Alberta for more open data access, without unduly pointing fingers.
We recognize that early consultations on opening up provincial data has begun with a focus on tech and innovation industries, and are encouraged by these initial conversations. We feel there is great potential for this motion to motivate the government to accelerate its process toward freeing up more datasets, while protecting the personal privacy of individuals in this province.
The mover of the resolution has highlighted that open data will provide “support for innovation, research, and informed decision-making, as well as proactive disclosure and increased accountability”, and we could not agree more. This is a great opportunity to support effective local decision making that will drive economic growth and improve the lives of all Albertans.