Fueling Pacific Economic Engines with Open Data in Times of Covid-19

Noumea

Throughout my career, I have always championed the value of open data, especially geospatial and earth observation data for the social, environmental and economic growth that it brings. Access to timely and accurate data is critical to maximizing the efficiency of development programmes and is a critical economic as well as scientific imperative for our region.

When I took office as Director-General of the Pacific Community (SPC), one of the projects that immediately grabbed my attention was the Pacific Data Hub (PDH). The PDH is an ambitious catalyst for change in how we manage and extract value from open data in and for the Pacific region. It aims to consolidate the incredible volume of scientific data generated by the nine thematic divisions of SPC, as well as datasets from across the Pacific (SPC member states, development organizations, research institutes). The database already hosts almost 12,000 datasets and counting!

The PDH also delivers a sustainable and secure data infrastructure that will allow countries to protect their datasets, ensures that the data legacy of development and aid projects are stored securely, and most of all, provides data access to the region’s decision-makers and their key partners.

It is no secret that good public policies can improve the lives of millions, and that these policies must be fueled by solid evidence. In establishing PDH  as the go-to hub for all data from and around the Pacific, it will be well-placed to support Pacific countries, and the international community, in making the right decisions, and effecting positive impact on development pathways in the region.

The Pacific Data Hub will be a game-changer for development programmes in the Pacific. Whether talking about climate change, geosciences, health, fisheries of aquaculture - we cannot afford to make bad policy decisions or to waste resources through using incomplete, outdated or inaccurate data.

The COVID-19 crisis has made the importance of the PDH greater than ever. We know that the travel and social restrictions that have been put in place will have an impact on our collective economic outlooks, and that the development sector, as we know it, will be deeply transformed. Pacific countries are currently preparing to respond to this challenge, and the sharing of open data will need to be a key component of that regional response. Robust data sharing systems will be instrumental in helping countries better collaborate with one another; regional organizations reshape and adapt the support they provide to their member states; and global organizations “hit the target” more precisely with funding development programmes in the region. We can not afford to be constantly reinventing the wheel in our region, and opening and sharing our data helps us to avoid this fate.

It is the right time for the Pacific to embrace the tremendous potential offered by open data. We want to support our members and partners to benefit from this initiative and to take advantage of its resources to anticipate, address and overcome upcoming economic, environmental and social challenges. Are you ready to be part of this collective effort? Our team at the Pacific Data Hub looks forward to hearing from you!

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Stuart Minchin

Director-General (Noumea)

Before he joined the Pacific Community (SPC) on 23 January 2020, Dr Minchin previously served as Chief of the Environmental Geoscience Division of Geoscience Australia, a centre of expertise in the Australian Government for environmental earth science issues and the custodian of national environmental geoscience data, information and knowledge. He has represented Australia in key international forums and has been the Principal Delegate to both the UN Global Geospatial Information Management Group of Experts (UNGGIM) and the Intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO).