This study sought to better understand the needs of existing and potential users of open data as released by IRCC on open.canada.ca, and to inform ongoing efforts to unlock the potential applications of open data to support newcomer settlement and integration in Canada.
Findings and Recommendations
A data hungry stakeholder community
All stakeholders view data as essential (fairly important, or very important) in carrying out their mission and work, and all have several staff members dedicated to collecting, assembling and analyzing data. In some cases, those responsibilities are shared between different staff members. As one stakeholder put it, demographic facts are essentially the foundation of any research on immigration. They turn to data in order to see what’s actually going on on the ground and to understand the trends and gaps in services available to refugees and newcomers. Moreover, data directs strategic decision?making for seven out of the eight stakeholders surveyed. From the data, they can then develop policies and programs, plan accordingly and further evaluate their activities.
Issues of discoverability
When familiar with the IRCC’s catalog (as listed on the Open Government portal at open.canada.ca) ?? which was not the case for all ?? several stakeholders noted that the catalog is not only difficult to navigate, but that the open data source is not widely known as well. Indeed, there seems to be very limited knowledge about open data itself among stakeholders.
Gaps in data offerings
As the majority of the stakeholders surveyed are province?based organizations working to integrate immigrants within their regions (i.e. these are not national organizations), one of the glaring absences in regards to the data available is provincial and municipal data, either produced by these orders of government, or available by breakdown at the provincial and municipal levels. In some cases, data doesn’t have the level of granularity that is required to conduct useful analysis at the local level. Respondents brought up the fact that the lack of data concerning provincial health records, labour market assessments, Express Entry recipients, permanent residents and interprovincial mobility have left them scrambling to find data elsewhere in order to get a more complete picture.
Maze of communication
Whether it is to ask questions, confirm interpretations, discuss applications or to report errors, all respondents have needed at one point or another to contact someone responsible for the data. What stands out from the online survey, however, is that there does not seem to be one standard method of engagement. There is currently no way to constructively provide IRCC with feedback. The inability to contextualise IRCC data is an impediment to innovation within the settlement and newcomer sector. Stakeholders were calling for an open data approach that went beyond the supply and demand model for one that factored the context of data users and producers.
Literacy and capacity issues
When it comes to technical literacy, most respondents seem to have difficulty forming an opinion on data encoding and data formats, so much so that most cannot seem to identify specific challenges regarding these issues. However, one thing is clear: most respondents are seeking a better standardization process and a more user?friendly interface.