The Government of Antigua and Barbuda believes data should be treated as a valuable asset that ought to be made available to the public, instead of keeping it trapped in government systems.
As such, the Ministry of Telecommunications, Science and Technology will on July 1st 2013, operationalise an Open Data Readiness Unit (ODRU) which will manage the governments open data initiative.
The move follows the release of findings on Thursday, from an Open Data Readiness Assessment, carried out by officials from the World Bank, the International Development Research Centre of Canada, and the Caribbean Open Institute.
Overall the assessment found that Antigua and Barbuda is in a position to move forward quickly with an Open Data initiative. Read the report Here
Minister of Telecommunications, Science and Technology Dr. Hon. Edmond Mansoor said that the recommendations and action plan put forward by the ODRA team will also be adopted and replicated regionally.
“From a public policy perspective, information that is held by governments should be freely available to use and reuse by the public, so that it can be turned into useful applications, support transparency and accountability, and make the sharing of data between public sector partners more efficient.” Dr. Mansoor said.
Dr. Mansoor added the Government of Antigua and Barbuda will apply to the World Bank for funding under their Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building (TFSCB) to assist with implementation.
ICT Operations Officer at the World Bank, Anat Lewin pointed out that by putting out an ODR initiative, Antigua and Barbuda would not only lead the Caribbean in the supply of Open Data, but it could also use its first-mover advantage to harness the skills and enthusiasm of people throughout the region to generate data applications which would benefit Antigua and Barbuda.
This assessment found that Antigua and Barbuda has strengths in its institutions (particularly the Ministry of Telecommunications, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Finance, the Economy and Public Administration, in relevant laws and in its high-quality internet infrastructure which give a sound foundation on which to build.
According to the findings of the assessment, “In addition to reputational and transparency benefits, an Open Data program could lead to greater business efficiency and competitiveness in Antigua and Barbuda, both in absolute terms and relative to other countries in the region, in key areas such as tourism and foreign inward investment, and to community engagement in addressing public service improvement. Again, Antigua and Barbuda could have a first-mover advantage.”
Additionally the report noted, “Existing modernization and digitization programs already underway for financial and other process would make it possible for Antigua and Barbuda to be in the top class globally in Open Data for government transparency- particularly if financial transaction data were to be released. Since the data is already centralized and digitized there would be no technical difficulty in doing so.”
Open Data is the idea that the Government should make available to others as much as possible the non-sensitive, non-personal data which it collects in the course of its operations. The data would be available in “raw”, machine-readable form for reuse for commercial or non-commercial purposes. Personal data and other sensitive data will of course continue to be fully safeguarded.
Although the idea is relatively new, other Governments which have already started to do this, have seen benefits in terms of economic growth, innovation and jobs; closer citizen engagement in improving public services; transparency and accountability; and improvement in the efficiency and operations of public services.