Richard Mostyn, minister of highways and public works, right, announces that Yukoners can now surf open data published by the Yukon government via a new website during a press conference in Whitehorse on June 25. (Julien Gignac/Yukon News)

YG activates open data portal to improve access to information, Mostyn says

It’s unclear how long it will take for requested information to be posted

Yukoners can now surf open data published by the Yukon government via a new website, and the amount of it is likely to grow as time passes.

That’s because if the sought out information isn’t there — say, the number of people incarcerated in the territory — it could eventually be populated by the government unprompted or upon request. That’s an important piece of the project, said Mark Burns, director of electronic services for the department of highways and public works.

Requesting information, he added, is a means of submitting feedback.

“The open data portal we launched today liberates reams of valuable information that has for decades been locked in the filing cabinets and antiquated servers of this government and makes it available to Yukoners in a useful format,” Richard Mostyn, minister of highways and public works, told local media on June 25, the day the portal was activated. “And this is important because most of this information is your information. It is compiled by your government, on your behalf and it should be available to you.

“It’s a service that will cut red tape, making it easier for Yukon citizens to learn things about their government … just about everything, to be honest,” he continued, adding that it will promote economic development.

But it seems unclear how long it will take for requested information to appear on the website.

Asked how long it would take, Mostyn said, “… we haven’t got the timelines.”

Yukon government departments have 30 days to respond to an Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPP) request.

Mostyn said the time it takes for information to appear on the portal could be on par with this timeframe.

“We’ll have to check with ATIPP to see what’s going on and what would ATIPP say,” he said. “I think the 30 day window is reasonable, it does mesh with the other piece of legislation, but (a timeframe) isn’t governed by any piece of legislation. We’re trying to keep people out of ATIPP because it’s a much more official process.

“I don’t want to say it’ll be 30 days, but I think that’s a good target to shoot for,” he added.

During a follow-up interview, a spokesperson with the department said while there’s no regulations governing how long it takes to populate the portal with new, requested information, that data could be released sooner than 30 days.

“The goal is to release that information as fast as we can,” Oshea Jephson said.

The initiative took two years to pull off and $250,000 to design. It’s Yukon built. One staff member has been hired to operate it.

Mostyn said while difficult to determine, there could be cost-savings eventually through what he called a more efficient service.

There isn’t much on the portal yet — 1,200 datasets and 4,264 files.

Labour force participation, snow surveys, procurement and transportation information are examples of the types of information currently available.

“There’s a whole raft of information already on the site that we are launching today and more will be added going forward,” Mostyn said.

It’s not a free-for-all. Some information won’t make it past government firewalls — data that discloses personal information, for instance, or third party or intellectual property rights.

Mostyn said the disclosure of data will be done “methodically” under ATIPP.

“The goal is to ensure that the default of government is in provision of information, not restriction of information.”

The portal can be accessed here: open.yukon.ca/data/

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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