Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated: June 16, 2021.


The Data Innovation Program is a data integration and analytics program for government analysts and academic researchers. While every B.C. ministry collects and manages its own data, the Data Innovation Program can securely link and de-identify data from multiple ministries and organizations, providing a better understanding of B.C.’s more complex issues. The program supports population-level analysis, not individual- or case-level analysis.

Population-level research analyzes data and identifies trends that can be generalizable to all British Columbians or a subset of British Columbians who share a common characteristic, such as health condition, age, income, and education. The goal of the research is to test and evaluate policies and interventions to improve outcomes for the entire population or a subset of the entire population (also known as study population). Projects do not have access to any individual or organizational identifiers and outputs must meet statistical disclosure controls.

The Data Innovation Program uses data contributed by B.C. ministries or agencies. This includes: income and work data, transportation data, demographics data, social development data, health data, justice data, and education data. To learn about the analyses these datasets are supporting, read about the Data Innovation Program Projects. Learn more about the datasets by visiting the BC Data Catalogue.

The Data Innovation Program supports approved B.C. government and academic projects. You can see a summary of current projects on our Data Innovation Program Projects page.

De-identified data has been stripped of any information that could potentially identify individuals, including names, driver’s licence numbers and personal health numbers.

De-identified data is a powerful resource for projects: it can lead to analytical insights while maintaining individual privacy and confidentiality.

The Data Innovation Program only uses de-identified data, or data stripped of any information that could potentially identify individuals. Government analysts and academic researchers never see personally identifiable information and the data can only be accessed in a secure setting (known as a secure analytics environment) under government’s care and control. Additionally, data is only available for approved projects that meet strict conditions to protect individual privacy.

The Data Innovation Program was developed in partnership with privacy experts and has been reviewed by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The program meets B.C.’s strict privacy laws and embodies world-leading best practices for data privacy and security.

Read more about Privacy, Security and the Five Safes model.

Accessing the Data Innovation Program

Only authorized people can access data through the Data Innovation Program. Authorized people are approved and trained government analysts, government-contracted researchers and qualified academic researchers. Approval and training requires individuals to:

Take an oath of secrecy under the Statistics Act,

Take privacy training and pass an exam, and

Sign user agreements stipulating terms and conditions of their data access and use.

If you are interested in accessing the Data Innovation Program, learn more about the eligibility requirements visit our Accessing the Data Innovation Program page.

No. Citizens and businesses can see which data sets are available through the Data Innovation Program, but the data is only available to approved projects. Citizens and businesses can continue to access other datasets from government through the BC Data Catalogue, which contains over 1,500 datasets that are free to use or re-purpose under B.C.’s Open Government Licence.

Yes, the Data Innovation Program is available for academics affiliated with a Canadian college or university whose research can be informed by access to population-level analysis. For more information on eligibility and access requirements for academic research, visit Accessing the Data Innovation Program.

Students enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program at a Canadian college or university, or medical residents under training affiliated with a Canadian college or university, are eligible to access the Data Innovation Program data holdings in fulfillment of their academic or training program’s research requirements as a team member on a project. The student’s academic supervisor must be the Project Main Contact on the Data Access Request and bears all responsibilities of that role.

A university or college in Canada is defined as meeting any one of the following:

  • A university, where the university status is defined under the B.C. University Act
  • A college, university college or provincial institute as defined under the Colleges and Institute Act R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 52
  • The Open Learning Agency as continued under the Open Learning Agency Act R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 34
  • Royal Roads University continued under the Royal Roads University Act R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 409
  • Another equivalent educational institution in another jurisdiction outside B.C. but within Canada

Yes, approved academic projects are subject to cost recovery fees. The detailed fees list can be found here.

For each dataset specified in your approved Data Access Request you gain access to the whole datasets as listed in the Data Innovation Program's Data Catalogue.

No. You gain access to the datasets required for your project, not to a customized extract.

The date range you access will depend on your approved Data Access Request. The available date ranges are provided in the Data Innovation Program’s Data Catalogue.

If there is a specific dataset you think should be integrated into the Data Innovation Program, please contact us. We prioritize the addition of new datasets based on what is feasible and will best support our community of researchers and analysts in delivering projects that are in the public’s interest. Due to the complexity of introducing new datasets, we cannot guarantee the data you request will be approved or provided within a certain timeframe. Please provide your requests; they inform program planning.

For the academic access stream, ethics approval in the context of the Data Access Request process means approval in writing of an application granted by the research ethics board (“REB”) or committee established at or recognized by a Canadian university, hospital or health authority that has the authority to provide that approval for that application. For project teams comprised of individuals from multiple institutions, individual researchers must check with their institutional REB for their local REB institutional requirements and each institution should complete its own review. 

The Data Innovation Program operates under the oversight of the Director of Statistics. The Director of Statistics is appointed to carry out duties under the B.C. Statistics Act and has the power to collect and compile data from British Columbia’s residents and organizations for the purpose of generating statistics. Each Data Innovation Program project must have their Data Access Request reviewed and approved by the Director of Statistics before gaining access to Data Innovation Program data. Additionally, the Director of Statistics must sign each researcher’s engagement agreement, which obliges the researcher to comply with the security and secrecy requirements of the Data Innovation Program.

Using the Data Innovation Program

Most data will be refreshed annually. PharmaNet and NACRS are continuously updated throughout the year, so each extract pulls the most recent data from the databases.

No. However, if you have data that you think should be integrated into the Data Innovation Program so it is also available to other researchers, please contact us.

Yes. Submit an amendment to your original Data Access Request. The onboarding package provided upon approval of your project provides instructions on how to submit an amendment request. This request may incur a fee and, depending on the data requested, receiving the approvals required to issue the additional data may have a significant lead-time and we cannot guarantee the data you request will be approved or provided within a certain timeframe.

You can export code or other documentation using the output checking process, then re-import that code for use in another project.

You cannot transfer data between projects.

If there is a specific software package you would benefit from having in the secure analytics environment, and you have checked that it is not currently available, please contact the Data Innovation Program to discuss your request. We cannot guarantee the software will be added or available within a certain timeframe.

You must notify the Data Innovation Program before making any changes to your project as defined on the Data Access Request. You can adjust your project scope by submitting a request to amend your Data Access Request. Some amendments may incur a fee.


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