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Learn About Open Data

What is Open Data?

Open (government) data is often referenced as:

 "A piece of content or data is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it - subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike."

Open data is also associated with being "machine" (computer) readable and having an acceptable terms of use agreement that isn't restrictive. The city has undertaken the open data initiative as a benefit to the citizens, businesses and the community at large.

How can I use or benefit from open data?

Open data is used by a wide variety of people and organizations ranging from citizens to software developers to researchers in both academic and private sectors. Depending on your interests, you may directly use the data (e.g. for developing applications or doing research) or indirectly by using mobile applications that use the data (examples are provided in our applications section).

The benefits have often been described as follows:

From a citizen and community perspective

  • Ease of access to government information
  • Economic development opportunities leading to job creation
  • Reduced costs for government operations
  • Enhanced eService delivery
  • Software applications (web and mobile) developed - for citizen, business and community
  • Increased opportunities for community engagement and collaboration in addressing societal needs

From a business perspective

  • Economic development opportunities
  • Reduced costs to find & use government data
  • Start-ups that leverage the data
  • Value Added Resellers
  • Innovation through new products & services

From a government perspective

  • Enhanced services to citizens and businesses
  • Reduced costs via internal access and less external FOI and data requests
  • Economic development
  • Improved government transparency & trust
  • Increased citizen engagement, collaboration with business and community groups

City of Waterloo open data policy

Our proposed open data policy is currently being developed and will be presented to council in the near future. The policy is based on community best practices and principles set out by the Sunlight Foundation which align with the Province of Ontario's Office of Information and Privacy Commissioner's "Access by Design" principles.

Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy

As noted in our open data policy, it applies to city-owned data which may be made public subject to privacy requirements as defined by the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and any contractual requirements that preclude external access to data. For your reference, please view this provincial act.

Open data terms of use agreement

Please review our open data terms of use agreement.

Got ideas - we'd love to hear them!

We're excited about this start to our open data initiative and we realize there are lots of opportunities to grow to make it even better for our citizens, businesses and visitors. Help us make it better by contributing your ideas.

Other open data references

Open (government) data is happening locally and globally. For those interested, we offer the following references as further insight into the happenings of open data.

Region of Waterloo Open Data

City of Toronto Open Data

Province of Ontario Open Data

Ontario Office of Information and Privacy Commissioner

Province of British Columbia Open Data 

Canadian Federal Government Open Data

U.S.  Federal Government Open Data

World Bank Open Data

Open Government Partnership

For those on twitter, you can follow the world wide happenings via the hashtag #opendata

Local open data community

If you're interested in getting involved, contact our local open data community group (not affiliated with the city).