The setting up of e-government systems can lay the foundation for a better open data policy, according to Gabriel Gamez, a representative from the Statistical Division of the United Nations. Paper-based systems are outdated and only create bureaucracy, he said when he addressed an Inter-American Bank’s (IDB) Unfollow Campaign event at the Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies in Valsayn on Wednesday.
“With paper, it can get lost, we cannot read them. e-government helps not only for statistics. The idea is not to respond three times to the question but only once and to share this information. So for the business community, this is important as businesses do not want to move to a country which is very heavy in terms of administration and forms,” he said.
Gamez also underscored the importance of data and statistics for better governance in the Caribbean.
In a question and answer segment following the presentation, Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AmCham TT asked about the usefulness of open data.
“We have no open data policy and we have low levels of digitisation of everything as records and data. Of course, we have some trade data, the utility of that is clear but other things . . . data in the health centre that is the hardest one. What can we focus on and how do you think you can get the Government to see that an open data policy underpinned by an inter-operable system application for the storage of the data would be beneficial?” he asked.
Gamez said a well structured statistical office and legislation that governs this is important.
“Some countries took more than 18 months to have it. It is very important to know who is the centre of competence in the country and who can coordinate this development,” he said.
Streamlining the agencies that do this is important so that there will not be overlapping of duties and technologies used, he explained.
“In many countries, every ministry and agency is developing in its little corner a technological solution, so after the problem of data transfer, then there is access to this. My advice is to develop technologies that are relevant to all agencies and put in place sound institutional set up in the country for the use of this information,” Gamez advised.
He said in many instances the business community and NGOs understand better the uses of data than people in state agencies.
“I cannot say it is always the case but it is often the case. Education is important. It is not only when people are grown up but at school, we have to teach them statistics. We have to change the mentality. Statistics and data are not a dark science,” he said.