Embracing Open Data

What is open data? why is it important? and how can open data, along with data analysis and dissemination support good governance and inform government decision making in the Pacific?

Those are big question and one a recent webinar series held by the Pacific Community (SPC) Pacific Data Hub along with SPC’s Statistics for Development and Human Rights & Social Development Divisions in partnership with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji, National Democratic Institute and International Foundation for Electoral Systems looked at.

Put simply, open data is the idea that data should be freely available to be used and reused, with the benefits of open data including increased transparency, accountability and the opportunity for effective and informed decision making.  While governance describes the processes of decision making and the processes by which decisions are made or not made, good governance describes these processes being carried out in a way that is participatory, responsive, consensus-orientated, effective and efficient, accountable, transparent, equitable and inclusive and that follows the rule of law. 

Open data is one of the key enablers of good governance.

“The principles and ideals behind open data are some of the key drivers behind what the Pacific Data Hub does to improve access to timely and reliable data from the Pacific,” said Sioeli Tonga, Pacific Data Hub Programme Manager adding that the webinars aimed to equip participants with a basic understanding of open data and good governance and their underlying principles to highlight the Pacific Data Hub’s approach in making data not just open by default, but open by design and open with purpose.

Featuring presentations related to open data, data analysis and data dissemination from the Pacific Data Hub Team, UNDP Fiji, NDI and IFES, SPC’s Statistics for Development and Health Divisions the webinar series is now available for viewing online.

Ancuta Hansen, National Democratic Institute's, Senior Country Director for the Pacific Islands who presented on the organisations work in promoting election integrity though open data in the Pacific said “while concepts like honesty and transparency are deeply rooted in the Pacific, the proliferation of technology and Internet connectivity—as well as the discussion around openness policies and standards—are a fairly recent development. Embracing data openness not only gives a new breath to political systems in the region but fosters trust in political leaders and institutions at a time when citizens are increasingly disengaged from political processes outside electoral periods”.

Sonja Stefanovska-Trajanoska, UNDP Regional Anti-Corruption Adviser, UNDP Pacific Office who presented on the value of right to information for improved transparency, accountability and anti-corruption in the Pacific said, ”Open Data is a critical tool to enhance transparency, accountability and reduce corruption. The more citizens know about official statistics, government spending and the details of legislation, the better government can be held to account. Open data keeps governments alert, responsive and honest. Open data is important for advancement of the Right to Information (RTI) and anti-corruption objectives of the Agenda 2030 and specifically the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 and their ultimate vision to leave no one behind.”

The webinar series is part of a suite of work the Pacific Data Hub is doing in the promotion, advocacy, development and implementation of open data practise, policy and enabling technology platforms in support of sustainable development for the Pacific

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David Wardell

Senior Communications Officer (Acting), Corporate Communications Office, Pacific Community (SPC)