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County Council learns about “Open Data” Catalogue website


by Sylene Argent

At its regular meeting held virtually last Wednesday evening, County Council received a presentation about the “Open Data” catalogue website being created.

  Mary Birch, Director of Council and Community Services/Clerk, said the “Open Data” Catalogue is a new initiative from the Information Technology and Geographic Information Systems Department for the County of Essex, which has been working with similar teams from local municipalities.

  At the County of Essex, a large number of requests for information are received on an annual basis, which includes maps and other information the County has, but is not confidential in nature. It does require, however, staff time to gather the information for release.

  “It just makes sense to make it available on our website for the general public and businesses, if they want that information to be able to gather it themselves,” she said.

  This is something that has been available on Federal and Provincial government website for some time now, Birch noted, as well as municipalities throughout the province.

  GIS Coordinator, Cathy Paduch, explained open data is information that is legally and technically open and free from restriction, so it can be shared and released. In the Terms of Use, the user must acknowledge the source and accept no warranty on the data for liability purposes. Data is available in common formats and will provide for an open and transparent government, she added.

  Currently, there are eight categories on the County of Essex’s Open Data website, Paduch said. It can grow over time and will include local municipal information as well. Local municipalities will also be able to create their own open data site at no additional costs, with support from the County.

  Tracey Bailey, Deputy Mayor of Lakeshore, said the open data website was fantastic. She wondered about the level of interest from local municipalities. Paduch said interest levels varied, but she has created a guide to assist municipalities to step them through the process of identifying, assessing, and publishing the data for the catalogue.

  Gary McNamara, Warden of Essex County and Mayor of Tecumseh, believes this is a nice augment for individuals to inquire about local communities. He sees this website as being beneficial for tourism and economic development opportunities, amongst others.

  “I think this is certainly a great tool, another add-on to the toolbox that we have to continue to promote our region,” McNamara said.

  He wondered if Pelee Island was involved with the program. Paduch noted it was not able to include its information to this website, as it is not part of the County’s ELA, but if Pelee Island had its own site, a link could share data to the County’s website.

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