Alberta - The Open Government Trailblazer

January 30, 2023
Scenic Alberta

Alberta is world-renowned for its towering, majestic Rocky Mountains and its Banff and Lake Louise ski hills that are consistently ranked as one of the best tourist attractions in the world. Aside from being celebrated for its natural scenic beauty, Alberta also holds the title of having the largest sub-national government repository Open Government data portal in Canada through its Open Government Program (Program), a title that it has held since 2012.


As voters and taxpayers of Alberta, we all have rights to access government data to see the various metrics and statistics that measure the wellbeing of our society and the performance of our government. In today’s day and age, we expect information to be widely available and accessible. However, while the government does make a lot of data, statistics and other information available, it is often in formats, such as pdf files, which can make it hard to find, process and re-use.


The Canadian Government started an Open Government program in 2011 with the mandate to make governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. Across the country, representatives from each province and territory worked with the federal government to adopt the program. The Alberta Government was a huge champion of the program and created the foundational impetus to the important work we see today. Alberta spent four years as the co-chair of the Canadian Open Government Working Group, a national group consisting of representatives from the federal, provincial and territorial governments, as a result of the large emphasis the government at the time placed on the program.  


Alberta Open Government’s mandate is to improve the lives of Albertans through a citizen-focused public service with data-driven decision-making. It has three priorities:

1.    Open Information

2.    Open Data

3.    Open Engagement


The Alberta Open Government Program's Three Pillars

The Open Information priority is focused on creating a central repository for government publications. Next, the Open Data priority emphasizes the creation of a virtual library to enhance access to raw government data to spur innovations. Finally, Open Engagement prioritizes the importance of a citizen and government collaborative discussion framework that encourages a high level of public participation. Foundational to all this was the creation of the Open Government Portal that provides the public with access to this wealth of government resources.


The first year of the program involved setting objectives, policies and procedures that have been operational since. The Open Government portal launched in May 2013 with 280 datasets and increased to 371 datasets in April 2014. The number of datasets more than quadrupled to1,695 datasets in April 2015 and quadrupled again to 7,060 in April 2016. In February 2017, records for Alberta’s statutes and regulations were added to the portal. Alberta was the first province to make their legislation searchable alongside publications and data holdings, and the initiative was recognized with the 2017 Canadian Open Data Summit Award for Open Data Innovation from the Canadian Open Data Society. This is  a volunteer-based organization dedicated to promoting democracy through advancing government transparency.


Alberta was also the first jurisdiction to make their Open Government holdings searchable on the Government of Canada’s Open Government Portal. This accomplishment was so inspirational that the process became the template for the rest of the provinces and territories in the country to partner with the federal government on similar projects.


As of today, there are over 27,000 datasets and publications available on the portal, and what is available currently is still the tip of the iceberg. In terms of open data, the topics that interest the public the most are:

·        Vital statistical info (births, marriages, deaths, legal name change, etc.)

·        Health

·        Environment (mineral information, well sites, etc.)

·        Government grants

·        Government disclosure info

·        Geospatial data

The appendix below contains a collection of the most popular datasets, most popular topics, and most requested datasets.


The Alberta Government has long been focused on transparency and the Open Government Program is one of the primary methods used for assuring citizens have access to government data and information. Partnerships formed over the years between the Open Government program and the various government agencies and departments that collect the data resulted in a wealth of government resources being available. Before government data can be publicly disseminated, it needs to meet the high standards set by the Program, which involves comprehensive metadata, some of which requires deep domain knowledge. The subject matter experts who can provide the information for the metadata are often in high demand, which can result in resourcing challenges.


Despite the challenges, the Program is making daily incremental progress that better the lives of Albertans. There are two initiatives on the roadmap for the Program. The first is the digitization of historical resources that include data and statistics, as well as information on programs, services, and policies of the past so the information can be available for those who are interested in comparing current public services to past public services. The second initiative is to focus on engaging the private sector, academia and non-profit organizations to determine how they are using the Program’s current datasets so the Program can enhance their portal offerings by releasing data considered high value and often requested.


There are many amenities in life we take for granted and it’s only when we look back in the past and see how life was like without it then we realize how important they are. A case in point is telecommunication, and the Rogers outage in July 2022 made many Canadians realize how important a reliable cellular network is to stay connected to friends and family. This is a stark contrast to roughly 25 years ago when not having a cellphone was the norm. The world wide web has been around for over 30 years and it is only recently that we can access government data at our fingertips, but it has not always been like that. We encourage our readers to take a moment to appreciate how fortunate our generation is to have readily available access to important government data at our fingertips that was not available as recently as 10 years ago.  


We want to thank the team from the Open Government Program for the interview for this story. They are the unsung heroes who are part of the small team in the Program noted earlier. Since the Program’s inception, they have worked tirelessly to make the Program possible, and have dedicated themselves to public service to improve every Albertan’s quality of life.


If you have certain public information that you are looking for, please use this link to suggest it as it would help with the prioritization of the Program.



Most popular datasets:

  • Leading Causes of Death
  • Alberta Annual Deaths Total
  • Alberta Annual Births Total
  • Alberta Non-Profit Listing
  • Alberta Municipal Election Results
  • Deaths, Cause by Gender and Age
  • Alberta population estimates: data tables
  • Public Disclosure of Salary and Severance
  • Property – Alberta Township System (ATS)
  • Consumer Price Index, Year-Over-Year Percentage Change: Canada andAlberta

Most popular topics:

  • Vital Statistical info
  • Health related information
  • Environmental info

                  Mineral information, well sites etc.

  • Government disclosure info
  • Government grants
  • Geospatial data

Most requested datasets:

  • Geospatial data

                  Vegetation map

                 Hydrography map


                  Water data

                  Parcel fabric


                  Road Network

  • Government business

                  Pay Scales




                  Lobbyist Register

  • Health data

                  Hospital wait times

  • Restaurant Inspection Data
  • Vital Stats data

                  Historical/Archival Datasets

                  Births and deaths

                  Top Baby Names

  • Education info

                  Schools info

                  Student health data etc.

  • Police and Crime

                  Police incidents

                  Police station locations

                  Crime statistics etc.

  • Real Estate Transactions
  • Municipal Zoning and Land Use

                  Property Assessment

                  Property Tax Rates  

  • Crown / State Land
  • Immigration Data

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