XV.StatCan Crowdsourcing

Interaction type Government → Public → Government
Trigger event
Domain Urban Mapping
Organisation Canada’s national statistics agency (Statistics Canada)
Actors Statistics Canada, OSM local community, Municipalities and Locals.
Data sets OSM for data editing and open source dashboard for monitoring work.
Process Locals fill the existing gap of national-level statistics on buildings and their attributes
Feedback Updated OSM in Ottawa and Gatineau.
Goal Updated georeferenced attributes of buildings and valuable information for various Statistics Canada divisions.
Side effects
Impact of the project Impact to the governmental body.
Temporal pattern Ongoing initiative.
Funding of the project Canada’s national statistics agency (Statistics Canada).
Contact point

Canada’s national statistics agency (Statistics Canada) launched a pilot crowdsourcing project οn 17th October 2016 relying on the principle that individual citizens are experts within their local environments. Volunteers are asked to fill the existing gap of national-level statistics on buildings and their attributes. Taking advantage of their local knowledge, citizens can input the location, physical attributes and other features of buildings such as type of use. Attention will be paid in georeferenced attributes of buildings such as building footprint, address, name of business in the building, e.tc. in order to compare specific local areas. This crowdsourced data aims to fill gaps in national datasets and produce valuable information for various Statistics Canada divisions.

In fact, Statistics Canada initiated a two-year pilot project aimed at understanding the potential of data crowdsourcing for statistical purposes. To advertise it, on September 15, 2016, a web page was launched and communications campaign to inform and motivate the citizens of Ottawa and Gatineau to participate in the pilot project.

Crowdsourced data is collected and edited via OSM. The process is facilitated with the use of a customized version of OSM’s iD-Editor which was developed and deployed by Statistics Canada. This adapted tool allows participants to seamlessly add points of interest (POIs) and polygons on OSM. However, in the main homepage of the project, it is underlined that OSM is a free tool that may not reach everyone’s expectations with regards to accessibility. The platform also includes instructions on how to sign up for OSM and how to edit, allowing anyone, whether tech-savvy or not, to contribute georeferenced data. To promote this idea, meetings and conference calls with people from the local (Canada/Ottawa-Gatineau) OSM community took place before the project starts. The project is monitored using an open source dashboard developed by Statistics Canada where the number of buildings mapped, the number of users and the average number of tags contributed on OSM in each target city is recorded. It also shows the amount of certain building types and the number of missing address fields by percentage.

Except for Statistics Canada and OSM community also municipalities participate actively to guarantee project’s success. It is remarkable that more than 200 people have signed up for updates on the project within the first month that it was launched.

In fact, the Statistics Canada is interested in an in-depth understanding of how a national statistical office can mobilize contributors and existing technologies for the purpose of official statistics. They also claim that the project will teach them about the possibilities and limitations of crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing data collection may become a way for Statistics Canada and other organizations around the world to collect much-needed information by reaching out to citizens. For the time being, crowdsourced data will not replace traditional surveying but it is a good opportunity to check out the potential of using this data supplementary.

In the second year of the pilot project, Statistics Canada intends to develop a mobile app that will allow contributors to map on the go. Outreach will be maintained and, as more data are collected, quality assessments will be conducted.

Main Lessons:

  • One more crowdsourced project that it is based on the principle that individual citizens are experts within their local environments.
  • Crowdsourced surveying works supplementary to traditional one to fill the existing gap.
  • Open Source dashboard may monitor the process of a crowdsourcing project.
  • The stakeholders give time to understand how it works and how they will benefit from it.