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The Data Challenge facing government

Government has huge data assets, but often fails to make best use of them. We asked for the ideas of public servants across the workforce on how to improve our data systems and tools – and your help in taking the best ideas forward. Seven of the most promising ideas were selected for development by project teams of public service volunteers, who then pitched their ideas to the judging panel at January’s Semi-Final. The four shortlisted teams then further refined their ideas in advance of the Final on 21 June, when they faced a revised judging panel featuring the Data Challenge program’s Champions – and the winner was announced, securing the support of the Champions and Judges in its journey towards implementation.


How it works


The Data Challenge is a competition and employee development opportunity open to all federal public servants in Canada.

We sought ideas for improvements to the government’s use of data, and formed teams of volunteers to develop the most promising proposals. These interdisciplinary, cross-departmental teams then went through two phases of research, presenting their ideas to the judging panel at the Semi-Final – where three of the seven teams were eliminated – and again at the Grand Final on 21 June 2023.

At the Grand Final, the judging panel selected a winner, pledging their help and support to move the idea forward to implementation.

The process

Stage 1: Complete

  • Put forward your ideas on how to use data more effectively. Ideas need not be well-developed or researched: just set out your concept in our simple form, and we’ll identify those with greatest potential and help you take them forward.

Stage 2: Complete

  • Join a team to develop one of the most promising ideas, assessing viability and quantifying the potential costs and benefits;
  • Pitch to the judges at the Semi-Final, and answer their questions;
  • Judges choose the strongest ideas to move on to the next stage.

Stage 3: Complete

  • Further develop and refine your data use case, with technical support from digital and data specialists;
  • Pitch to the judges at the Final event, showing how you’ve addressed their previous questions;
  • The best idea will receive additional resources and support for continued development, with the program’s Champions guiding it towards implementation.

Judging criteria

To what extent is the idea…

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Likely to improve the experience of public service users or the tools used by public servants?

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Likely to generate a high return on investment, with the benefits for citizens, staff and/or taxpayers substantially greater than the costs?

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Deliverable, with likely obstacles assessed and addressed?

Innovation icon

Innovative and exemplary in its use of data and technology?

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Replicable/scalable, with potential applications across government?

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In line with the goals of public service modernisation, departmental priorities and the ethical use of data?


Jan / Feb 2022

Briefing of Champions and Advocates

23 February 2022

Launch of program at government data conference

April 2022

Program open for idea submission and participant applications

Friday 24 June 2022

Close applications and commence review

July-October 2022

Agree long-listed applications and teams formed

November 2022

Initial session for development of ideas

January 2023

Shortlist event and development of finalist ideas commences

June 2023

Final event to select and announce winner

Information for managers

Before applying to participate, public servants had to secure your manager’s approval. It is likely that during the course of the program, some participants may change jobs or begin working for new managers. If that’s the case, you may wish to direct your new manager to the Information for managers page. If they have further questions, they are welcome to contact us.