Do We need Data Literacy? Public Perceptions Regarding Canada’s Open Data Initiative

Michelle Boychuk, Mark Cousins, Amanda Lloyd, Charlotte MacKeigan


Open Data is a new concept that the Canadian Government is using to encourage civic engagement, to promote economic growth, and as a means of supporting transparency and accountability within the government.  Our research addresses the extent to which the Canadian Open Government initiative, specifically the publishing of open data, has impacted the general public. While emerging research on open data suggests that there is a problem with data literacy levels among citizens, it does not acknowledge the public’s opinion about the relevance of data literacy and open government to their own lives. In order to address this gap, we gathered 42 responses from an anonymous electronic survey that employed both qualitative and quantitative methods to assess the opinions of a portion of the Canadian public. We discovered that there are several factors that enable or impede the initiative’s ability to achieve its stated goals of transparency, accountability, and collaboration for the general public—the public’s data literacy levels, clarity of the data, and awareness of the initiative are a few of the most prominent. The results of the study provide further insight into the public’s opinion on open data, their perceived data literacy skills, and the impact the open data initiative has on their lives. First Place DJIM Best Article Award.


Open Data; Data Literacy; Public Perceptions; Open Government

Full Text:



Andreae, J., & Anderson, E. (2012). Re-conceptualizing Access: The new role of information literacy in post-secondary education. Communications In Information Literacy, 5(2). Retrieved from %5B 5=v5i2p74

Bertot, J. C., Gorham, U., Jaeger, P. T., Sarin, L. C., & Choi, H. (2014). Big data, open government and e-government: Issues, policies and recommendations. Information Polity: The International Journal Of Government & Democracy In The Information Age,19(1/2), 5-16. doi:10.3233/IP-140328

Brito, J. (2008). Hack, mash, & peer: Crowdsourcing government transparency. Columbia Science and Technology Law Review, 9. Retrieved from

Couldry, N., & Fotopoulou, A. (2014). Telling the story of the stories. Information, Communication & Society, 18(2), 235-249. DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2014.952317

Government of Canada. (2014a). Canada’s action plan on open government 2014-16. Retrieved from: government-2014 16

Government of Canada. (2014b). G8 Open Data Charter. Retrieved from: charte_du_g8_sur_les_donnees_ouvertes.aspx?lang=eng

Gurstein, M. (2011). Open data: Empowering the empowered or effective data use for everyone? First Monday, 16(2). doi:10.5210/fm.v16i2.3316

Hyams, Elspeth, Martinez-Uribe, Luis, & Macdonald, Stuart. (n.d.).

Jaeger, P.T., & Bertot, J.C. (2010) Transparency and technological change: ensuring equal and sustained public access to government information. Government Information Quarterly, 27(4), p. 371-376. doi:10.1016/j.giq.2010.05.003

Johnson, J.A. (2014). From open data to information justice. Ethics and Information Policy, 16(4), p. 263-274. doi:10.1007/s10676-014-9351-8

Kassen, M. (2013). A promising phenomenon of open data: A case study of the Chicago open data project. Government Information Quarterly, 30(4), 508-513.

Martin, C. (2014). Barriers to the Open Government Data agenda: Taking a multi-level perspective. Policy & Internet, 6(3), 217-240.

Open Government Partnership. (2014). About: What is the open government partnership?. Retrieved from

Open Government Partnership. (n.d.). Participating countries. Retrieved from:

Ren, G. J., & Glissmann, S. (2012). Identifying information assets for open data: The role of business architecture and information quality. Paper presented at the 14th International Conference on Commerce and Enterprise Computing (pp. 94–100). doi:10.1109/CEC.2012.23

Schield, M. (2004). Information literacy, statistical literacy and data literacy. IASSIST Quarterly, 28(2/3), 6-11.

Stephenson, E., Caravello, P.S. (2007). Incorporating data literacy into undergraduate information literacy programs in the social sciences: A pilot project. Reference Services Review, 35(4), 525 - 540.

Viebeck, E. (2015). Jeb Bush email dump include social security numbers. The Hills. Retrieved from dump-includes-social-security-numbers

Veljković, N., Bogdanović-Dinić, S., & Stoimenov, L. (2014). Benchmarking open government: An open data perspective. Government Information Quarterly, 31(2), 278-290.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.