Home » Get involved

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

Develop new skills in fields such as digital project management, data technologies, business planning and public speaking by researching and developing a data project, then presenting your findings to senior leaders from across government.

Office team working together

Make new contacts

Build relationships with partners across government and beyond, working with colleagues from a range of professions, roles and departments/agencies in an interdisciplinary, cross-departmental team.

Health worker talking to a patient

Make a difference

See your project rolled out to improve the tools used by public servants and the services received by citizens. We aim to find smart, deliverable ideas, collect the evidence to demonstrate their value and secure the support of senior leaders, giving them the best possible chance of implementation.

A UK entry presenting their idea

Raise your profile

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.

How to get involved

The Data Challenge has two sets of goals:

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

It is open to all federal public service employees, who can participate by submitting an idea and/or applying to join a team.

Office team gathered around a computer

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. We need public servants of all positions, professions and departments/agencies: 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 Data Challenge partners anticipate that employers will encourage this professional development opportunity. Participating staff should ask their managers for 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.

We are excited to hear ideas from public servants of any role, department/agency or profession. While digital and data specialists are encouraged to apply, no technical skills or knowledge are required to take part: if your idea is a good one, we’ll build a team around you with the required expertise. Indeed, we believe that staff in fields such as operational 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 within the UK’s Civil Service Data Challenge, take a look at its website – www.datachallenge.uk – where you can browse the full list of ideas submitted, view the teams’ pitches, and watch videos from the Final.

The only ideas outside the Challenge’s scope are the kinds of major, public service-wide structural reforms best addressed by central strategic and policy bodies. Our focus is on finding practical ways to improve individual tools, services and organizations.

Pre-application advice and support

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

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 Secretariat 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?”.



PDF icon
PDF Bilingual Script

Office Hours

If you have an idea you’d like to submit for the 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 each Monday afternoon during the submission period from 1 to 3pm EST. To sign up for a 15 minute time slot, please complete the following form:

Sign up


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).

NOTE: Participation in one or more of these activities is NOT required to submit an idea to the data challenge or to sign up to participate on one of the teams. These offerings are strictly optional.

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.