News: Open Letter to Minister of Natural Resources Carr & President of the Treasury Board Brison on Open Data

Dear Minister of Natural Resources Carr & President of the Treasury Board of Canada Brison,

As Publish What You Pay ‘Data Extractors’, we are writing as a group of activists from around the world, united in our desire to use data from the oil, mining and gas industries to hold governments and companies to account, and to ensure that citizens in each of our countries are involved in decision-making processes around natural resources. Through the Data Extractors programme, we have spent much of the past year examining different sources of extractives data, and learning how to apply different data tools to use this data to achieve our goals.

A year on from Canada’s hosting of the International Open Data Conference in Ottawa, we are eagerly awaiting the first ‘payments to governments’ reports submitted in line with Canada’s Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA).

Given the Canadian Government’s commitment to a policy of ‘open by default’ we were disappointed to learn that Canada continues to allow companies to file ESTMA reports in either PDF or Excel formats. If companies choose to report in PDF format, which in our experience they often do, our work is made considerably harder. To extract, copy or make use of data from a PDF requires time, training and sometimes expensive computer programmes. Open formats (as defined by the Open Definition) greatly increase usability, encourage genuine interaction with data, and make civil society scrutiny much easier. Open data must become the global standard.

The Canadian government committed to implement ESTMA through the Open Government Partnership, where Canada has championed open data, chairing the Open Data Working Group. Championing open data internationally means also doing so at home.

Data that is unused does not improve governance, financial accountability or ultimately democracy. Canadian extractive companies have over 100 properties in over 100 countries. As a result, Canada has the opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to the core value of openness by requiring that all ESTMA reports are disclosed in an open format, such as CSV or Excel, by 2018. We would like to take this opportunity to strongly urge the Canadian government to reconsider its position on extractives data, and to insist that Canadian extractive companies report in an open and machine-readable format.

Yours Truly,

The Publish What You Pay Data Extractors

Dominic Eagleton, Global Witness

Munkhjargal Enkhbaatar, Transparency International – Mongolia

Edmond Kangamungazi, Publish What You Pay – Zambia

Miles Litvinoff, Publish What You Pay – UK

Meliana Lumbantoruan, Publish What You Pay – Indonesia

Waseem Mardini, Publish What You Pay – US

Jana Morgan, Publish What You Pay – US

Camilo Nhancale, KUWUKA JDA, Mozambique

Quentin Parrinello, Publish What You Pay – France

Abdoulaye Seydou, Réseau des Organisations pour la Transparence et l’Analyse Budgétaire (ROTAB), Niger

Mukasiri Sibanda, Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association

Dewi Yuliandini, Publish What You Pay – Indonesia

Marco Zaplan, Bantay Kita, Philippines

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