Brief substantive summary of the workshop and presentation of the main issues that were raised during the discussions
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are numerically significant comprising fifty-two nation states and approximately 50 million people with a massive diaspora community. The representation of this group of nations demonstrates diversity within the IGF debate, with recognition and enhancement of the United Nations 2014 declaration as the Year of SIDS. SIDS are particularly vulnerable group but it is difficult to track their development due to lack and inconsistency of data and data sets.
Apologies were given for the absence of some panelist and Pacific members due to the recently concluded UN Conference on SIDS in Samoa www.sids2014.org
The example of big data and small data in the smart islands initiative for the Mediterranean islands (Greece Italy Spain Cyprus and Malta) was discussed. SIDS need to find a way to utilise and harness information from SIDS otherwise they will be ignored very easily and communities may be marginalised if their information is not in their ecosystems. It is also important to have info from the world to SIDS such as metrological mapping and funding. Having local data is a community asset and adds value.
The pool of people able to process open data is small while there is data the main value is a push to use data for instance in Bali and Ghana by engaging offline communities with open data. Along with this is the value of network optimisation and building the need of openness and transparency.
The target to improve public services can help drive the open data requirements. While mobile connectivity and internet connectivity is limited for some, it is a challenge that has to be addressed and we have to start small.
The government has taken the initiative to make the open data repository and encourage students to make apps. Currently at the University of the West Indies St. Augustine campus there is data of agriculture and daily prices. In Jamaica open data app competition is using the data.tt platform.
The spreadsheet data on data.tt uses CKAN and also have Maps.tt (used for geographic data and geo data) with real time data platform rtd.tt. With time there will be more data and more apps with the ability to take an app on multiple data sets which effectively combines multiple data.
From the OECS perspective through Electronic Government for total cost of ownership optimisation (EGRET) the regional government framework was strengthened and deployment of multipurpose id system took place. There are better understand the holistic implications for the kind of trade and economic activity, with ability to address IG issues including physical infrastructure.
Small programs can quickly scale from national to regional levels once there is adequate support and this ensures that the connectivity promise is realised.
Open data initiatives need to activate people in the landscape. The difference between the policy dimension to movement to data development culture rests on content creation tier to translate to meaningful applications and for innovation and research. The attempt to encourage development of the tier for activation within the OECS is taking the form of capacity building programs which brings academic institutions and young people to deal with producing any identifying data sets.
In the context of SIDS can happen with or without direct government support as it is possible for organisations within the private sector to provide proof of concept for data as an economic and social development engine. There must be the associated training, media engagement, academic sector involvement (to translate how it works in the real world). The translation process is a key enabler in determining success and tangible outcomes.
Often data cannot be combined to a report and there is the issue of responsibility, who you give the data to and what type of data is collected and given. There is a struggle between the traditional british style official secrets act versus the freedom of information act in which information may be made public out of the information ministry, statistical/census office or office of prime minister. Much effort is required in the majority of cases since there is an inherent fear of embarrassment and compromise if information is released. Countries must have an approved data classification policy to differentiate public and private information and what should be open and closed.
It is true that releasing certain types of data can infringe of privacy rights but it depends largely on the type and amount of data released; if there are sensitive data and one or two actors such as trade data you can't release without abrogating the data into a form that does not expose that trader to its competitors. In other cases in the OECS it is important to release the data in aggregate form with other islands. The classification is if it is going to give a negative impact to a particular person. The OECS has utilised medical data to determine how to serve the public and cater in particular to preventing certain lifestyle diseases.
In the case of data.tt uses only already publicly available data is utilised so in this case it is difficult to reconcile the ethical implications of open data usage. In the case of agriculture data this is low hanging fruit taking the traditionally not machine readable format, converting it to useful market information and helping to prove the utility of data sets in an open format as possible. The proof is in the value proposition and publishing in the required format which maintains privacy.
Conclusions drawn from the workshop and possible follow up actions
From the debate it can been concluded that the data that results from Internet access and mobile connectivity can aid better policy and programmes, to help SIDS improve internet governance, cybersecurity and resiliency in their countries.
The data and access to information and technology which the internet facilitates can help to support the development of a rich technological ecosystem for SIDS, which connects them with continents and the world.