I’ve often discussed my concerns with the current implementation of the Canada Gazette, Canada’s official newspaper wherein publication constitutes official notice to all Canadians. While the average Canadian does not necessarily grab a cup of coffee and peruse the Canada Gazette early on a blustery Saturday morning, it is a vital part of Canada’s Government systems. For example, if a regulation is not published in the Canada Gazette, a person cannot be convicted of the offence.
Spurred by Thom Kearney, I’ve decided to brainstorm ways to improve the Canada Gazette, both for internal use by the Government of Canada and also to make it more usable and accessible to the public.
I realise that the online version of the Canada Gazette (CG) was developed to be a web-version of the published paper version. Even though the Gazette has been published online only since April 1, 2014, the format has barely changed. It is largely a digital representation of the paper publication; issues are listed in reverse chronological order and you can click to view an HTML or PDF version of the Part in question. The sidebar mainly contains information for Departments and Agencies looking to publish in the CG, but very little in the way of advanced tools or even navigation.
The format should reflect the medium. The CG possesses all of the necessary data to allow a sidebar with interactive sorting options. Some low-hanging fruit, implementation wise would be the ability to view publications by:
- Department or Agency
- Enabling Statute
- Publication Part (I, II, III)
- Consultations Available (This is partially available)
These advanced search/navigational options would greatly increase the usability for most use-cases. I can speak that, as a regulator, I could shave a lot of time off my by day by having a more robust way of finding data in the CG. Additionally, you could have an RSS feed of a particular facetted search and follow changes in your areas of interest.
I’m not sure why, but anything but the most recently published parts have a large “Archived” header and even the title of the page is changed to include ARCHIVED. There may be a perfectly valid reason for this, but since this is the perpetual record of Government publications, I don’t know if there is relevance to a distinction. For the general public, this makes you feel like you are viewing out of date information, when in fact, in most cases, it is the only publication of that specific item.
The search is quite effective. I would re-iterate my statements above about having ways to specifically interact to narrow down your searches.
Open Data / API
Given the periodic publication schedule (known in advance) and the finality of the data as published, this makes an ideal candidate for publication to the Government of Canada’s Open Data site. Additionally, given the extensive metadata, and clear concise and well defined data elements, it wouldn’t be particularly difficult to develop a simple API for developers to build tools to track publication in the CG that matches particular areas of interest. Additionally, comprehensive longitudinal data analysis could be performed on the data set seeing as it goes back to 1998 online (as far as I know). This could be of interest to academics in public administration and governance as well as internally by Departments and Agencies.
These are just a few ideas off the top of my head, but I’d love to open a discussion the topic and see what we can come up with. My number one wishlist item would be the ability to use facets to drill down into the content. What would you like to see in the next version of the Canada Gazette?