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Why should I enter?

Catherine Luelo

Chief Information Officer of Canada

“Nobody knows our data systems better than the public servants who use them every day. Tell us how to fix problems or recognize opportunities – the Data Challenge creates a space where we can build teams around the best ideas, and provide resources to move them forward.”

Office team learning together

Gain new skills and expertise

Researching and developing a data project, and presenting your findings to senior leaders from across government, you’ll develop new skills in fields such as digital project management, data technologies, evidence-gathering, business planning and public speaking.

Office team working together

Make new contacts

Joining an interdisciplinary, cross-departmental team with colleagues from a range of organisations, disciplines, roles and seniorities, during the project you’ll build relationships with partners across government and beyond.

Health worker talking to a patient

Make a difference

We aim to find smart, deliverable ideas; collect the evidence to demonstrate their value; and secure the backing of senior leaders, giving them the best possible chance of implementation – so you could see your project rolled out, helping to improve the tools used by public servants and the services received by citizens.

A UK entry presenting their idea

Raise your profile

Public servants will pitch ideas to the judges, champions and sponsors, giving presentations and answering questions. Whether you’re submitting an idea or joining a team, the program’s champions will write to your manager to thank them for your contribution to the project.

Information for participants

The Data Challenge has two sets of goals:

  1. We want to draw out public servants’ ideas on how government could make better use of data, providing the best of those ideas with the resources, expertise, guidance and leadership required to move towards implementation.
  2. We want to support the career development of participating public servants, helping you develop your skills, experience, and contacts across government. 

It is open to all serving federal public service employees: you can submit an idea, apply to join one of those teams, or both.

Office team gathered around a computer

We are keen to hear ideas from public servants of every role, organization, discipline and seniority. While digital and data specialists are encouraged to apply, you don’t need technical skills or knowledge to take part: if your idea is a good one, we’ll build a team round you with the required expertise. Indeed, we believe that staff in fields such as frontline service delivery and policymaking will have lots of great ideas for how to make better use of data: the Data Challenge is designed to surface those ideas, with the ultimate goal of making concrete improvements in the public service’s operations and results.

Similarly, we are open to all kinds of ideas. Your idea might, for example, focus on improving public servants’ tools, departmental systems, the quality of policymaking and evaluation, operational efficiency, or the provision of services to the public. And it might operate by, for example, linking up existing public service datasets, finding new ways to gather data from outside government, applying a new technology to public service data assets, or simply adding new functionality to back office systems. Ideas can operate at almost any scale, from relatively minor technical improvements to the development of new services and systems.

To get a feel for the kinds of ideas that made the most progress last year, check out the 2022-23 longlist. You might also want to take a look at the UK’s Civil Service Data Challenge: on its website www.datachallenge.uk, you can browse the full list of ideas submitted in its first year of operation, view the teams’ pitches, and watch a video shot at the Final.

The only kinds of ideas that sit outside the Challenge’s scope are major, public service-wide structural and strategic reforms: these agendas are managed by central policy bodies, and such changes can only be delivered as part of an integrated, long term, cross-government plan. Our focus is on finding practical ways to improve individual tools, services and organizations.

Joining a team

As well as people providing their own ideas, we are seeking public servants to join the teams formed around those ideas selected for development. Here too we would like to find people working in all roles, organisations, disciplines and seniorities.: teams will need a good mix of skills, experience and contacts to take their ideas forward. Once ideas have been included in the program, they will become the responsibility of the whole team – with members sharing the responsibilities and rewards equally.

Once the ideas ‘longlist’ has been decided, we will identify the capabilities and connections required to develop each idea. At this point, we’ll get in touch with applicants and build a set of suitable teams.

Approvals and time commitments

The program partners anticipate that public service employer bodies will provide participating staff with the time required to undertake research and development work during working hours, along with the flexibility to attend key program events. The time required is expected to total about two days per month for the duration of your participation.

Before applying to join the program, you will need your manager’s permission. Please direct them to the page Information for managers.

Pre-application advice and support

Join our Idea Development Workshops, run by Statistics Canada’s Innovation Team, to test and strengthen your ideas before submission.

Public servants interested in submitting an idea to the Data Challenge are invited to first participate one of the following activities:

Idea Development Workshop

The Idea Development Workshop is a three-day hackathon-style workshop taking place November 14th to 16th. 

If you have an idea that you’re planning on submitting to the Data Challenge, but want to strengthen it prior to submission, this is your chance! Join the workshop to accelerate your idea development and receive support from mentors who can provide guidance and advice to help you along. Not only is this a great opportunity to network with colleagues from across the GoC, but participants of the workshop will also benefit from brainstorming and design thinking workshops and will have the chance to receive feedback on their ideas before pursuing them further.

Participants may participate in the workshop as an individual or on a team of up to 6 people. If participating on a team, you may bring your own team or request to be placed on one. Multidisciplinary participation yields the best results – participants from all domains, backgrounds, tenure, and skillsets are welcome. You do not need subject matter expertise or an ability to code!

Participants are expected to work on their idea for full days during the workshop. Participants are welcome, of course, to take breaks from the workshop to deal with pressing matters. The rest of the team (if applicable) will continue working on the challenge during these periods.

To participate in the Idea Development Workshop, register here: Idea Development Workshop Registration Form  

Note: Participating in the workshop is not required to submit an idea to the Data Challenge, nor do all projects worked on during the workshop have to be submitted to the Data Challenge.


Design Thinking Resource

If you have an idea that you want to strengthen and take a bit further before submitting it to the Data Challenge, design thinking can help! Check out these videos prepared by Statistics Canada’s Innovation team to learn more about design thinking, where you will be challenged to understand the user of your idea, consider your assumptions, and then redefine your idea all while answering the essential question “Why?”.

English: How can Design Thinking Help

French: Comment la pensée design peut-elle aider

PDF Bilingual Script: Design Thinking Video Script

If you have any questions or comments about these videos, please contact StatCan’s Innovation Coordinator (statcan.innovationcoordinator-coorddelinnovation.statcan@statcan.gc.ca).

Office Hours

If you have an idea that you’d like to submit for the Government of Canada Public Service Data Challenge, but wish you had someone to talk to about it before submitting, look no further! Join StatCan innovation analysts for a 10- to 15-minute conversation to talk through your idea, ask questions and get advice prior to submitting it to the data challenge. Office hours will take place virtually via Microsoft Teams each Tuesday afternoon during the submission period from 1 to 3pm EST.

Office hour time slots are available on a first come first serve basis. To sign up for a 15 minute time slot, please complete the following form: Office Hours Registration

If you have any questions or comments about Office Hours or the Design Thinking videos, please contact StatCan’s Innovation Coordinator (statcan.innovationcoordinator-coorddelinnovation.statcan@statcan.gc.ca).

Data Challenge Alumni

If you submitted an idea last year that was not selected for the longlist, this is your chance to receive feedback on your idea, strengthen it, and resubmit it to the Data Challenge for the second iteration! Contact StatCan’s Innovation Coordinator (statcan.innovationcoordinator-coorddelinnovation.statcan@statcan.gc.ca) to obtain feedback on your previously submitted idea. We will work with you to understand the feedback and can provide you with advice to refresh your idea for this iteration.