This backgrounder provides information on Open Data Master Plan scheduled to go before Executive Committee on January 24, 2018. Pending decisions at Executive Committee, this report will go to City Council for consideration at its next meeting from January 31 to February 2, 2018.


If adopted, the Open Data Master Plan will impact all City divisions and agencies, corporate strategic initiatives, community groups, private business, academia and the general public.

Open Data is defined as machine-readable data that can be freely used, reused and distributed by anyone.

Government data that has been made open to the public has been shown to generate new ideas and perspectives so that it can be re-used, analyzed and correlated to help improve the City’s delivery of public services, engage with citizens in government decision making and find innovative approaches to civic problem solving.

At its May 24, 2016 meeting, Executive Committee adopted motions for the City Manager, in consultation with the Chief Information Officer, City Clerk and City Solicitor to develop a strategic plan for Open Data.

At the April 3, 2017 Executive Committee meeting, City staff proposed a three-phased approach in the development of the Open Data Master Plan, guided by four key principles.

  • Master Plan will be co-developed with the public
  • Master Plan will focus on releasing data sets that help solve civic issues and provide highest public benefit
  • Master Plan will explore opportunities to improve City efficiency; and
  • Master Plan will embrace inclusivity to remove barriers to open data and strengthen resilience.

These guiding principles were co-developed in collaboration with members of the community at the Open Data Community of Practice event.

The City’s Open Data team has engaged with a number of community groups and all levels of government, with support from the non-profit organization Open North, to assist in the co-development of the Open Data Master Plan. In addition, Canada’s Open Data Exchange has provided valuable insights in identifying ways in which the business sector uses open data.

A Public Advisory Group was created in the summer of 2017 and was comprised of 42 individuals from the public, start-ups, and academia. The group provided feedback and helped to co-develop the Open Data Master Plan.

Development of Toronto’s Open Data Master Plan was anchored in the International Open Data Charter (ODC). Its six principles (Open by Default, Timely & Comprehensive, Accessible & Usable, Comparable & Interoperable, Improved Governance & Citizen Engagement, and Inclusive Development & Innovation) guided the City’s overall approach.

Master Plan Summary

There are four themes that drive Toronto’s proposed Open Data Master Plan:

  1. Foundation
    1. Provide as many high value data sets as possible, as quickly as possible.
    2. Define a process that prioritizes the release of open data sets.
    3. Emphasize quality data sets over quantity of data sets.
  2. Integration
    1. Make Open Data an official City program and establish governance.
    2. Allocate resources and invest in the growth of open data at the City.
    3. Encourage the public and City staff to use/contribute to open data.
    4. Shift the perception of open data among City staff – it’s a good thing.
  3. Connection
    1. Provide entrepreneurs, businesses and other organizations with access to quality and timely open data.
    2. Toronto, the GTHA and the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor has thousands of bright and talented people who should be engaged and partnered with for mutual benefit.
    3. Establish and cultivate partnerships with the many open data community groups that already exist.
  4. Activation
    1. Make datasets available and appealing to everyone, not just developers.
    2. Increase awareness, both internally and externally, of the benefits of open data.

The Open Data Master Plan calls for the City to adopt the International Open Data Charter to guide the growth of the Open Data Program.

A capital budget item for implementation of the Open Data Master Plan  was submitted for a multi-year period starting in 2018.

Potential Benefits/Outcomes

If adopted, the proposed Open Data Master Plan could impact the City, residents and the broader public in the following ways:

  • Ensure transparency and availability of City data
  • Improve the City’s ability to solve civic problems and enhance services through increased collaboration and partnership with engaged residents (i.e. open data communities), entrepreneurs, private organizations, other levels of government, academia and others.
  • Inspire a culture of innovation among Toronto residents and City staff
  • Position the City to better respond to rapidly growing demands (by entrepreneurs. private organizations, individuals/residents, academia etc.) for more open data
  • Formalize the open data program at the City
  • Prioritize high quality data sets
  • Showcase the value of City-produced data sets

 In conjunction with the development of the Open Data Master Plan, City staff have been working on an enhanced open data portal with data visualization capabilities. The user-centred design approach informing the development of this new website is to meet the growing demands and usage of open data by both technical and non-technical audiences.

Next Steps

If approved by Executive Committee and then City Council, the Open Data team will begin implementing the Open Data Master Plan by following the road map included within the Plan.