The Government of Canada has more than 200,000 online datasets on its Open Data Portal – public information that covers everything from numbers of foreign students to crime statistics to geological maps of Vancouver.

Now, they want to get the country’s best minds working at making all that information usable.

Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board of Canada and minister of the federal economic initiative for northern Ontario, was at Humber earlier this month to announce the Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE) – a 48-hour national appathon for postsecondary students, innovators and entrepreneurs to create apps using data from the government website.

“In terms of what can be developed, the sky’s the limit – I know people will come up with ideas that we’ve never even considered,” says Clement, who travelled to several postsecondary schools  promoting the event. “What better way to showcase this rich data environment than by getting budding entrepreneurs involved around the country to create something that’s useful to other Canadians?”

CODE, which will happen from February 28 to March 2, 2014, is supported by XMG, one of the largest indie mobile gaming studios in Canada and sponsors of the Great Canadian Appathon (GCA), which was runs from January 17 to 19 and also officially launched during Minister Clement’s visit.  

The GCA is a familiar name to many Humber students, who have gotten valuable experience participating in the competition over the last few years.

“Competing in the Great Canadian Appathon taught us a lot of really valuable skills, like teamwork, how to work under a tight timeline and how to prepare for the next competition,” says Ricardo, who competed with teammate Zachary in GCA 3. “We actually took some of the skills we learned at GCA and used them to develop a game this summer for the app store.”

Zachary is inspired by the potential  for using the data in the CODE competition.

“I take the TTC every day, so if the site has links to municipal transit data, I could see developing an app with that,” the third-year game programming student explains. “Competing in these types of events really helps you develop your ability to work under pressure – and gives you inspiration for future projects.”