Archive for November, 2011

DataBC isn’t just about data. We also make it easy to find government apps.

Court Services Online (CSO) is one of those apps. It gives the public access to the provinces’ court records. Generally speaking, the public has the right to know what’s happening in the B.C. court system – which is one reason why records are maintained by court registries. The CSO app was created as an alternative to providing in-person court services, with the goal to make these records more publically accessible.

What sort of data can you access from the CSO app? The CSO app provides data from civil, criminal and traffic court records by connecting directly with the judicial system’s database. Using a simple search, anyone can lookup court files, check on the outcomes of hearings, electronically file court documents or – in some cases – purchase court documents.

Of course, there are exceptions to what kind of information is made publically available – anything that is sensitive or not required to be public knowledge is sealed or restricted.

However plenty of information is available. The following court record data can generally be found as it relates to a civil, criminal or traffic file:

  • File number
  • Type of file
  • Date the file was opened
  • Registry location
  • Style of cause
  • Names of parties, counsel, or participants
  • List of filed documents
  • Charges, sentences, dispositions
  • Release information
  • Appearance details
  • Terms of order
  • Caveat details

Learn what’s happening in our courts – visit Court Services Online to start your search.


Some of the province’s future leaders are the students at British Columbia’s high schools, universities and colleges. Education is a foundation to helping them reach their potential. And now more than ever, that education can be fuelled by data.

Before the advent of open data, high school students and university undergraduates may have had limited opportunity to learn about data or use it in their studies.  A key barrier was time. As anyone experienced in collecting datasets knows, compiling good data takes months, possibly even years, which does not always fit into curriculum timelines.

The beauty of open data is with more quality data accessible, students have more opportunity to interpret and question data – to tinker under the hood – and become data literate.

At BC’s first Student Codeathon, a group of a grade eleven and twelve students experienced first-hand the possibilities of open data. At the event co-hosted by the Ministry of Education and the British Columbia Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association, the students were shown tools and data available and then given free rein to come up with problems to solve.

Check out what the students learned in their own words:

Pioneering into the world of coding opened a new world to me, that of discovering data and learning to use it efficiently in ways that could make a difference to my community.” Dayah, Hugh McRoberts Secondary

“What I really liked was that, they would give you a presentation on where to find some data, and then let you start a mini project using that data, and whenever you were stuck or needed help, they would assist you in trying to resolving the issue.” Rahim, Burnaby South Secondary School

“I learned that the opportunities of open data and the opportunities which you can create are endless. We all have learnt so much from the experience and we hope to share our thoughts and ideas within our schools and districts in the near future.”  Som, Hugh McRoberts Secondary School

We are excited about the possibility of more events like this one. After all, these students are our future leaders. They will help shape the future; whether it be acting on environmental issues or influencing social or economic policy. And so it seems obvious for them to have an opportunity to learn about the power of data.

Have an opinion? Let us know what you think.


City of Surrey Hackathon

On November - 22 - 2011

Ever wondered which BC communities are leading the charge on open data? Surrey is for one. This past Sunday the City of Surrey hosted their first Open Data Hackathon. After a decade
of providing geospatial data for a cost, the City of Surrey began offering it for free two years ago, including by download from their

Anyone interested was invited to attend the event, which was hosted in Surrey’s new City Centre Library, an architectural statement about a community focussed on the future.

Inside the room, innovation was pitched – twenty plus participants collaborating on how municipal data could improve citizen’s access to information about services in Surrey.

The day started with an introduction to some of the tools and data available, followed by a brainstorming of how to use the data to benefit the community. Participants than came together into project teams or worked independently to code the raw data into maps or visualizations.


Here is the list of projects from the Hackathon:

  • Map of Services for Seniors in Surrey -Seniors can enter their address and then all of the services (e.g. hospitals) available to them would be displayed on a map.
  • Recollect – Recollect uses municipal data on garbage collection schedules. Users can do an address search to generate a personal garbage collection calendar, and to setup reminders by emails or other means.
  • Surrey Landuse Development Applications and Greenspace – A map of Surrey that includes all parks, paths and trails data and land use development applications. It would include an address search function.
  • Surrey Bus Routes – A map overlaying colour-coded TransLink bus routes onto the City of Surrey street grid to make transit easier to find.
  • Surrey Population Map – A pop-up visualization to compare the population in each of Surrey’s neighbourhoods. Click on a neighbourhood and a bar pops-up with the height determined by the population size.
  • OpenStreet Map –  Expanding an existing map application where users can update address information. The developer was cross referencing address data already in the OpenStreet Map with address data provided by the City of Surrey.
  • Personal Rapid Transit –  An information webpage describing the merits of a personal rapid transit system (i.e. in personal rapid transit, passengers travel in separate pods).
  • 2011 BC Civic Election Results –  A map where the user could click on BC Municipalities to find out the voter turnout and whether or not the incumbent mayor was re-elected.
  • School Rankings and Property Taxes –  A tool to help families choose where to buy a home by searching by address location to find property tax rates and the how the schools ranked for parent and student satisfaction.

We love the innovation that’s happening in BC’s open data community! Thanks again to the City of Surrey for hosting the event and to OpenDataBC for facilitating.

We’ll keep you posted on these apps as they continue to evolve.



The next generation of ‘coders’

On November - 7 - 2011

What happens when you combine smart students, data, a smattering of food and let them flex their mental muscles?

They come up with cool ideas to help other students, teachers and their fellow citizens.

The Ministry of Education and the BC Principals and Vice-Principals Association teamed up to host the first BC student codeathon. It was raining outside but that didn’t dampen spirits or the flow of ideas. How about these for starters:

  • School and Transit Map – how far do I have to carry my text books?
  • Schools, Crime and Transit – be safe, which Vancouver transit stops are plagued by crime.
  • MapYourSchool – I can’t find my class, help students (and parents!) navigate a new school.

Beyond ideas, the student’s enthusiasm to dig in, work out the fine points and start working was infectious. Whether it was finding and structuring data or making it work on a map, there was plenty of learning taking place.

Some key messages from the day?

Don’t wait to perfect your project. Share your ideas, blog about them, tweet them out to your network. If you need help, there’s someone out there who has the stuff that will help move your project forward.

From our perspective those are probably good lessons for not only their projects but for life. All very good stuff.

If you have ideas to help their projects, let us know and we’ll connect the dots.