Tony Clement says he gives his federal Conservative government an A+ when it comes to releasing data to the public.

The president of the Treasury Board and long-time MP visited Mohawk College on Monday to announce a nation-wide competition to develop apps using information released by the federal government.  He says that under the Conservatives, Canada is a world leader in open data, releasing large amounts of information to the public.

“A+,” he said when asked what grade he would give his government.

“Certainly we are world leaders when it comes to open data. I don’t think there’s any government that I’m aware of that can point to the amount of data sets we have available.”

Clement was in Hamilton to announce the government’s first national “appathon,” known as the Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE).

Minutes per day spent in 2010:

Web browsing: 70

Mobile apps: 66

TV: 162

Minutes per day in 2012:

Web browsing: 70

Mobile apps: 127

Television: 168

Source: Flurry Analytics

College and university students across Canada will participate in the Great Canadian Appathon. The top students from that competition will go on to participate in CODE, where teams will develop new apps for the public using data released by the federal government. Tech developers and open data enthusiasts are also invited to participate and create user-friendly apps, Clement said.

The federal government has released large amounts of information regarding Statistics Canada, the environment, health and public safety and security, Clement said. It’s all at data.gc.ca.

“We’re doing a good job,” he said. “My attitude is the more we do, the better because I see this as part of our competitive advantage.”

Criticized in the past about transparency

The Conservatives have been criticized in the past for being tight-fisted with information. Most recently, NDP critics warned that the system is "in crisis" and the government needs to make sweeping reforms to the Freedom of Information Act to be accountable to the public. 

As for open data, Joey Coleman, a local open data advocate and project lead with Open Hamilton, didn’t quite concur with Clement’s high grade.

“I’d give them a B,” he said.

The government has released a lot of data, he said. But it also cancelled the long-form census, which provided valuable information about neighbourhoods.

It also needs to release more “accountability data,” such as budget information and its lobbyist registry, he said.

Time spent on apps will soon surpass TV

Clement announced Monday that the federal government is holding its first national CODE event at the end of February. 

The 48-hour appathon will happen from Feb. 28 to March 2. A review panel will examine the submitted apps. The top 15 teams will be invited to a grand finale event in Toronto on March 28.

Apps are not small business. People now spend more minutes per day on apps than they do browsing the web, said Ray Sharma of XMG Studio, a CODE co-sponsor. Soon, it will be more popular than watching TV.

The city released about more than 30 open data sets this fall, with more to come. It sees open data as “a way of sharing the information that belongs to the community with our citizens,” said Mike Kirkopoulos, corporate communications manager.

“We will continue to work with the community to prioritize and release additional data in the coming months.”