Ontario has launched a public consultation on creating a new data strategy for the province with the goal of helping residents and businesses benefit from the data economy while protecting privacy.

“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,” Bill Walker, the minister of government and consumer services, said. “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.”

In a statement the government said the strategy will be guided by “core principles—which include a focus on ensuring that data privacy and protection is paramount, and that data will be kept safe and secure.”

As part of a task force on data Ontarians can participate in the consultations through an online survey at ontario.ca/DataStrategy until March 7.

The consultation will look at three themes:

  • Promoting public trust and confidence: In the face of growing risks, ensure public trust and confidence in the data economy by introducing world-leading, best-in-class privacy protections;
  • Creating economic benefits: Enabling Ontario firms to develop data-driven business models and seize the commercial value of data;
  • Enabling better, smarter, efficient government: Unlocking the value of government data by promoting use of data-driven technologies.

In making the announcement the government noted a recent consultant’s report reviewing provincial spending identified the need for Ontario to put data at the heart of every decision made in the designing, administering, or delivering public services.

The decision by the province to start working on a data strategy comes as Ottawa is finalizing its national data and digital transformation strategy following public consultations. That strategy is expected to be released this year.

It also comes after provincial auditor Bonnie Lysyk urged the province to create a policy framework for the creation of smart cities — which would include data governance and privacy — following an audit of the Waterfront Toronto project. That project to create a smart community on the lakefront in partnership with Google parent Alphabet Inc., has been surrounded in controversy over who will have control over data collected in the neighborhood.

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