The Government of Ontario today announced plans to seek public input on a new data strategy focused on helping businesses benefit from the digital economy, while making data privacy and protection a top priority.
The province said it is hoping to build a data strategy that prepares Ontarians and Ontario businesses for “the rapidly advancing era of Big Data”. It plans to explore new opportunities for data use and find ways to protect people’s data rights from increasing risk.
“The growing scale and scope of data…creates an opportunity for Ontario businesses to be more innovative, create more jobs and more wealth in our province.”
“Our government recognizes the tremendous potential of emerging data technologies, and we are seeking to get a better understanding of how we can drive innovation and unlock economic opportunities for people and businesses across the province,” said MPP Bill Walker, minister of government and consumer services. “At the same time, we are committed to ensuring data privacy and building a better, smarter, more accountable government, one that earns and keeps the trust of Ontarians.”
Phase one of consultations will be done solely online through an online survey that can be found here, from now until March 7. The second phase consultations will include roundtable discussions will begin in the spring. It hopes to finalize the strategy with businesses and the public by fall 2019.
The government will be focusing on three topics: promoting public trust and confidence, creating economic benefits, and enabling better, smarter, efficient government. It noted that in the face of growing risks, ensuring public trust and confidence in the data economy is important, and it hopes to introduce “world-leading, best-in-class privacy protections.” Along with promoting the use of data-driven technologies accessing government data, the strategy will also involve ways for Ontario firms to develop data-driven business models.
The public response to the consultations to help inform a Minister’s Task Force on Data, which will be the basis for creating a draft document on the province’s Data Strategy. It will seek further public consultation before the Data Strategy is finalized.
“Data is one of the most important drivers in the global economy today. A successful data strategy for Ontario can unlock economic opportunity in the form of new businesses, quality job creation as well as the transformation of essential public services like policing, education and healthcare while reducing their cost to taxpayers. These objectives can be achieved in a manner that also respects citizen’s privacy,” said Adam Belsher, CEO of Magnet Forensics, a Waterloo-based digital investigation software company that works with law enforcement, government, military, and corporate organizations in more than 92 countries.
“Canadian tech CEOs welcome the Ontario government’s efforts to become a leader in the data-driven global economy,” said Benjamin Bergen, executive director of the Council of Canadian Innovators, a national business council representing over 100 Canadian companies. “A provincial data strategy will ensure that Ontarians own and control their data so that it can become an engine of prosperity for the province of Ontario as well as a tool that protects our privacy, public safety, democracy, and public health.
He noted that, “the growing scale and scope of data generated by Ontarians creates an opportunity for Ontario businesses to be more innovative, create more jobs and more wealth in our province.”
The Government of Canada launched its own public consultation in June focused on understanding how data privacy and the digital economy affects Canadians.