Connecting Small Island States with Access to Data

5 September 2014 - A Workshop on Other in Istanbul, Turkey

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Full Session Transcript

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The following is the output of the real‑time captioning taken during the IGF 2014 Istanbul, Turkey, meetings.  Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.  It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the session, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.  
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>> CINTRA SOOKNANAN:  Hello, good morning.  This is just to let you all know that we'll be starting shortly.  We're just awaiting a couple more panelists to enter the room.  Thank you.  
(Pause)
>> CINTRA SOOKNANAN:  Hello, good morning, everyone.  Welcome to our workshop this morning.  As many of you know, the SIDS countries are numerically significantly.  They comprise 52 nation states and approximately 50 million people with a massive task for a community.   The representation of this group of nations demonstrates diversity in the IGF debate with recognition and enhancement of the United Nations 2014 declaration, as the Small Island Developing States.  SIDS are a particularly vulnerable group and it's difficult to track development due to lack of inconsistency of data and datasets.  As a community, we can benefit greatly from our open data, and our panel will discuss this issue in greater detail.  
My name is Cintra Sooknanan.  I'm the Chair of the Internet Society Trinidad and Tobago chapter.  Before I introduce the panelists, I just want to recognize the presence of some of our SIDS members, Carlton Samuels, Deirdre Williams and Tracy Hackshaw.  I also want to apologize for the absence of some of our panelists, particularly, because of the conference on SIDS.  If you would like to follow the outcome of that conference, SIDS connectivity, ICT for development and sustainable development, relating to health, youth and women, go to www.SIDS2014.org.  
So without further ado, I would like to invite and welcome our panelists.  First we have Keisha Taylor, who is going to speak a bit about SIDS experience in the UK.  Keisha lives in the United Kingdom and is a senior manager, business planning and research at TechSoup Global.  She's also the Director of the Caribbean Diaspora for Science, Technology, and Innovation in the UK.
>> KEISHA TAYLOR:  Hi, everybody.  So basically as Cintra said, I work with the Caribbean Diaspora for Science and Technology in the UK, and basically what we do is try to connect professionals in this area to support the development of and the participation and employability in areas related to those subjects.  Basically, I'm also just about to do a Ph.D. in web science at the University of South Hampton, and as part of that I'm going to be looking at some of the areas related to data in small communities.  Basically I will start.  Big data is a term that everybody is using nowadays, but just as important is small data which is data that, you know, you can actually use that's not in the entire ecosystem, so it's data that is a little bit more manageable and I think that a combination of big data zeroed in with small data could help improve, it could help not jurist make large cities more efficient but also small islands, and to some degree the small islands are actually more advantageous because they're smaller and because they could use big data in a smaller type way to improve efficient, to make services more efficient.
So here I have a few examples of why I think that is the case.  So it helps with better resource management and what is sometimes termed metropolitan areas and that's also related not just to small islands, but small communities as well, also smaller could also be smarter because if you're smaller and you have access to information, it makes it a little bit more easier the infrastructure is in place to actually develop services because you're a whole lot more connected with the communities and with the needs of the communities.  Also it's important to use tech infrastructure to understand the flow of capital and resources, that's one of the things that smart cities around the world are trying to do, and small islands could also capitalize on this, too.
It's also important to, I think, to have more initiatives that connect small different islands with each other.  So if there's an initiative around open data, it would be brilliant if a small island state could also work on a specific open data or data initiative by partnering with another small community or another small island, and in this case each community will be better able to learn from each other and develop what they're actually trying to do in a more efficient way.  So that's one of the things that I would encourage, a whole lot more partnership between islands, especially with those that have common issues.
Also it's important, I think, there's so much going on in this space and a lot of ideas that are brewing and a lot of services that are developing, I think that SIDS should also learn from what's happening elsewhere and apply that to the work that they do, too.
For an example of what I think is an interesting area of work that's happening, that's being sponsored by the EC is the Smart Islands Initiative.  So basically this is for Mediterranean states and of course these states are connected to European mainland says, and basically one of the things that it aims to do is to integrate multiple services, whether it be in tourism, fisheries, agriculture, and use information that people ‑‑ and try to harness information and data to be able to make these islands a lot more smarter.  So some of the things that they're working on include 3D smart management for the environment, 3D   for weather purposes and 3D weather which is for citizens and Government.  Also there are areas related to areas in transportation, in transportation, real estate and everything else, a whole lot of key areas.  And it's hoped, they also plan to release a pilot to the Apple store and for the Android Market, and the project is for 14 Mediterranean islands including islands in Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Malta, and there's hope that this will also help encourage tourism and develop and help with the effects of the economic crisis.  So I thought that that was a really great example to cite.  They aren't a state per se, but they are developing more smart ways using data to enhance services and improve economic development in the region.
I thought this slide was a really good example, first Luxembourg and Cona and Poitier, those are the three cities that are thought to be the most smart, according to this, and I like how they divided it up into smart economy, smart people, smart governance, smart environment, smart mobility and smart living, and what they've been doing there is trying to harness data to better improve services related to each of those areas, but also through finding the connectivity between each of them as well because they're focusing more on improving the quality of life through looking at all the different areas and working on developing and prying information and data in those areas and improving making Caribbean islands, specific islands, African islands, much more smart in their services and capitalizing on the fact that they're small is really important.  I think that data has a role to play in helping to push for better infrastructure and better access because now the two are so closely interrelated.
  So the AMsource, basically I put this up here because there's been a really interesting technology called AMsource   technology which in this case, this is an example of a Twitter map, a mapping of the location of Twitter accounts around the world, and basically what I've done here is tried to look at how this person, how fast the diaspore for Ireland, so that is an example of what's been done there.  
They've been using a special data mining type of thing called Omnimatics, and they've also been helping Lithuania to understand the sociology of a diaspore and attract foreign direct investment by data mining Factiva CNE, which is a large database of community directors worldwide, and they've also analyzed PubMed, which is a scientific database that is used by doctors and biotechnology researchers too, and part of the reason they've done that is to help recognize where there's international tolerance in the diaspore related to needs of the state and I thought that's a really interesting way of using data and information to help garner skills and understand actually where you could actually help ‑‑ I mean, diaspore communities are probably actually more interested in funding things, and sometimes funding a little more risky projects may not be easily done whereas the diaspore may want to do that because they have a connection with the community and with the island states and that's something that should not be ignored, because if the Caribbean doesn't harness the diaspore to help them get the talent and the services that they need or even conversely I think Caribbean states could also help with diaspore communities and some of the issues that they face, so I think there's a need for collaboration between the two.
So here I thought for an example, there's been the Jamaican foreign ministry, they've started this mapping exercise where they're calling for members of the diaspore to participate in an online survey to obtain information about skills that exist in the diaspore so the Jamaican Government, Jamaica itself could also benefit from it rather than just the countries that the diaspore actually live in, so that's something that's going on, and also that's kind of the type of things that the group that I work with would also support because we're developing a network of professionals in this area that others can actually learn from and would like to contribute.
I will skip this slide.
So disaster response, I thought I would put this here as an example because basically this is a popular example, but I put it there nevertheless.  When the earthquake hit Haiti a few years ago, the diaspore was very, very essential in using and providing information and providing crowd‑sourced information to help in the midst of the crisis.  For instance, they helped to crowd source hospitals and maps, they helped with information of Creole into English for those that were giving development assistance, and as you see, Haitian Creole is only spoken by 12 million speakers worldwide and 9 million of them actually live in Haiti, so you can imagine the importance of the diaspore to get this on the ground when local people were not able to mobilize themselves.  Also cell connectivity was key so a lot of this was done by mobile.  At one point services were down but then they came back up and if it weren't for that, a lot of lives would have been lost, so I just wanted to point that out that that information, the crowd sourced information was really important and the diaspore played an important role in disaster relief.  
So open data islands, there's a great research paper by Allan Dix who offers on small communities, for me it also relates to small islands, so basically according to him, he says states from small island states we need to find a way to utilize and harness and garner that information because if there is no information online, if there is no easy way to access information about SIDS, that means that SIDS will be invisible and they'll be ignored because that's the way the world looks in this big data environment.  People harness data based on what's out there and it's very easy for communities to be not ‑‑ to be marginalized if their information isn't actually in the ecosystem.
So also it's important to have data from the world to SIDS.  This is very essential, so information on census data, material, logical data, mapping data, is really important if you want to apply for funding or lobbying or negotiation because data helps to give an example of what is actually required.
And then within SIDS, local data, is a community asset, because if you have information about your community, you could use that information to help improve and develop services.  For instance, in Africa where a map could be a local community actually made a map of their own community, so much so that, you know, they had the better map.  They had the only map that existed of their community, which was ignored.  And having that map and having it locally owned ensured that the Government didn't destroy their community and knock it down because they think it didn't exist.  And also having data shared between SIDS, even though it might reside with one community, is also important because it's part of a larger dataset which becomes even more compelling.  So it's used ‑‑ because I know it's time.  Okay.
So it's used, expertise and resources.  This is an area that needs further exploration.  I mean, this isn't just for small island states, it's an issue that's relevant globally.  For instance, you hear a lot of people saying, you know, we need so many data scientists for the next few years.  They don't have enough people, not even in the states, to be able to analyze data and to be able to have the skills that are needed.  I think that there should be a lot of skills in the future are in STEM subjects and I think the Caribbean should have the skills and resources to do this, I think the education system needs to be sure they push for this, because if we have a pool of people who actually are really excellent at this, that puts us in a very advantageous position.  Also there's little reusable data flow.  I mean, just generally there's data, but there's a whole big push to actually use data rather than just have data available, and so there's a lot of initiatives from a lot of companies and institutions that are pushing reuse and not just open data, so it's very, very vital that even if we make data openly available, that people will be actually using it.  There's a good example of engaging offline communities with open data that was done by the World Bank in a small community that's completely offline, and basically that's in Bali as well as in a small community in Ghana, they had no information available on open data.  They don't even have access to the Internet.  And basically what they did is they garnered local community groups to talk to each other and to explain the important financial data, that was a task, seeing if these communities would actually be at all interested in open financial data.  But the way they've done it is very locally driven, got community leaders to talk about issues that are of relevance to them.  They put it in a framework that was direct relevance to their everyday lives, and by doing so, they were able to emphasize the importance of this and also get people to start putting the information online in their market places about, you know, translating the financial data that is provided by the World Bank about these communities in the market places and getting people having discussions around it.  And I think that there are innovative ways of engaging in the open data we use, but it's just up to us to be more creative and more engaged in helping to do so.  There's also a lack of, well, need for network optimization with regard to encouraging a culture of openness and discoverability and also there's a lack of will for transparency and accountability.  But now I'm encouraged by seeing that, you know, some of the most closed and undemocratic countries are also now engaging in open data.  I won't call names, but, yeah, basically they've seen from the tech community what's possible, and so they've decided to tap that and to use that in a way that helps them improve their public services.  And the lack of transparency and accountability are all willingness towards that, there is possibility for us to also help to drive that by doing it in that kind of way by emphasizing how it benefits citizens, and once they see that, it's important to them, and once they start talking about it, then they get on and they start engaging, and then the Government comes on board.  It starts with the citizens in the tech community and engaging with citizens before the Government comes on board, that's the reason why the open data initiative has been a lot more successful I should say than people originally thought it would be in such a short space of time.
So mobile connectivity and Internet connectivity is also limited for some island says.  Mobile is of course, you know, very key, and a lot of what we do relates to that, but of course it's a challenge if people ‑‑ there's different levels of connectivity on different islands, even within islands there's different levels of connectivity, but I think that if we start small and if you start doing little things that reap success, then there will be a lot more incentive to improve the ecosystem within which this works and develop, put more investment and infrastructure development too.
Also, need for modernized infrastructure and decentralized systems by making things smarter and on the Internet, we make them easily and rapidly available in response to local demand, I just thought that was a great example.  Privacy and security is also important.  I think that there's a lot open data could learn from the open source community and also technology needs to be open source there and focusing on maximizing the possibilities of data to encourage and address other IG issues.  So seeing data issues as being similar in some cases if not the actual same to Internet governance, all those issues related to data relate to Internet governance, from access, to say infrastructure, they all relate, so I think we shouldn't divorce them.
To conclude I thought it would be interesting to note that there's a proposal by the govlav to increase transparency of ICANN by using open data and open contracting, and right now they actually are talking a lot about this, and there's a proposal that's been submitted for this, and I think that this can also be an opportunity for small island states because having open data on contracting and sharing information held by the ICANN community like they've said, information on, you know, who gets contracts, what kind of stakeholders are involved, information on the DNS registry data, policy data, strategy data, all of that data could also help smaller communities and underrepresented communities to actually understand how they could better engage and influence what happens in ICANN and in a way that's also a benefit to them.  So I think it's really important for us to find a way to also engage and support this because it will only be of benefit to the development of what we are trying to do.  Thank you.  
>> CINTRA SOOKNANAN:  Thank you very much, Keisha.  I really appreciate you citing so many examples not just from SIDS but also from developing countries that are already far advanced in terms of their implementation of open data and the kind of benefits they're reaping from it.  
Now I wish to invite Dr. Patrick Hosein, who is a lecturer at the University of the West Indies and also works within the private sector, particularly for the Trinidad and Tobago Network Information Center, TTNIC.  Patrick has also been involved in the development of data TT, and it's with this in mind that he will give his presentation.  Thank you.
>> PATRICK HOSEIN:  Thanks, Cintra.  With open data you have data sources and you need to place those data sources somewhere in a repository and then you need to have access to these data sources meaning through data apps or Web apps.  I'll be talk understanding about the repository end.
Typically in many countries the Government has taken the initiative to form such open data repositories.  For instance, in the U.S. you have data.gov, et cetera, and UK data.gov.uk.  For many of us SIDS, the Government has other priorities and open data has been, you know, at least in our case given a little bit lower priority.  So we took the initiative to start our own repository.  This is a joint initiative between the dot TT registry, TTNIC and the department of computer science at the university.  The repository, the platform, is ‑‑ the surveys are provided by the university through a project called AgriNet, and it is managed, the platform is managed by TTNIC, so we felt that by having this repository, hopefully we would be able to get datasets from multiple sources, not only Government but also private sector, and by having this repository of data, we would encourage people, students in particular, to develop apps to make use of this data.
So far we have a significant amount of data from the Ministry of Agriculture, and apps have been developed for use in that data using information about pricing, you know, what prices are obtained in different markets, et cetera.  We also have data from other institutes within the university, and surprisingly we have quite a bit of data from Jamaica as well because they recently had an open data app competition and they used our platform for that competition.
The static data like spreadsheet data is maintained on a site called data.tt using an open source platform called CCAN.  So this is where you would typically see data that doesn't change very often.  We also have another platform, MAPS.tt that we use for geographic data, so this is more useful for when you need to display geographic information, and this one has been heavily used by another project at the university on fisheries, so it has lots of data about locations of markets and et cetera for the fisherfolk.  We also were interested in providing a platform for realtime data, and we couldn't find such a platform on the Internet, so, well, just I know the maps.tt platform is run on something called geonode.  In the case of realtime data where you have periodic data source, we couldn't find something that was substitutable for our needs, so one of my students developed such a platform with the appropriate APIs application interface, et cetera.  This will be used for a couple projects.  One of them on smart grids, Internet ad, the power grid has multiple spot meters and there is a lot of useful information being generated by those smart meters, and we hope to use this realtime open data platform located RTOD.tt to locate and process and display such data.
So we have these three platforms and hopefully with time we will get more detail, and as we get more detail, we get more interest in app developers to develop apps for it based on the data.  One thing in particular is as you get more data, the ability to take, to develop an app that uses data sources, multiple datasets from independent data sources becomes interesting because you can combine lots of different information as well as, you know, use geographic, realtime and static data together.
So just to conclude, we have some experience with setting up these repositories, and as I said before, many SIDS have open data as a somewhat low priority, and in particular, Trinidad will be willing to help with those countries who need such help.  Thank you.
>> CINTRA SOOKNANAN:  Thank you very much, Dr. Hosein.  Just going back to what you said about open data platforms, I know St. Lucia does have a Government open data platform, and it's unfortunate that Dr. Buttain can't join us because he intended to speak on that topic.  
I do have with us, though, Desiree Zachariah.  Desiree is part of the technical community, and she resides in Antigua and Barbuda.  She's a specialist for Antigua and Barbuda, as well as the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, and she's part of the OECS so she will as well touch on that topic. 
>> DESIREE ZACHARIAH:  Good morning, everybody.  I would like to say a little bit about the data that unites us in the OECS.  Now, just to give a bit of a background, the OECS or Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States consists of about nine countries and of which six of them are independent states.  And we make up about 3,147 square kilometers, of which we have a population of about 617,000 people, our GDP is approximately 8 billion EC dollars and which is approximately 2.9 billion U.S. dollars.  We have a single economic union as of about two years ago and we use a single currency which is the EC dollar as managed by the eastern Caribbean central bank.  We have created an OECS assembly which is responsible for ratifying legislation, so even the ultimate objective once everything is ratified is that even though a piece of legislation is not actually passed in an individual country, once it's passed at the assembly, it's passed in the country, it goes in effect in the country, which makes it possible to do so many things.  We don't have legal barriers.
Now, the Government for most of the OECS ‑‑ well, for all of the OECS countries is the main employer, and as a result, private sector depends very heavily on Government intervention so although we all ‑‑ the Government tries, though, to have partnerships between themselves, private sector, Civil Society, that is, in fact, that is one of the things that is the current trend at the moment.
Now, I would like to look at our experience as it pertains on the project, the electronic Government for integration project,   which started in about 2008 and actively ended in January, that January 31 of this year.  Now, the objective of the EGIP as mandated by the Government was to increase efficiencies and transparencies of the public sector.  That required a number of things.  We wanted to have policy and strategy implementation, and we wanted to have our legal regulatory framework in place so that one of the things we had to do is we had to come up with common legislation.  We wanted to ensure that there were common ICT standards in architecture because if you are dealing with data and especially big data, we need to make sure that it's easily accessible in a format we can use and therefore we embark on that initiative.  We wanted to make sure our total costs of ownership optimization was in place and therefore reporting was essential.  I wanted to ensure that our regional e‑Government framework was strengthened and applications could be used more effectively.  And we wanted to have a look at automatic registries and multipurpose ID system, which in itself would have generated a tremendous amount of data because there's quite a bit of traffic between the OECS countries.
So as a result, we looked at strengthening these various systems that we had in the OECS, and one of them was a public financial management system which we used two different programs, really.  One of them was free balance and another one smart stream, or treasury departments.  That generated a tremendous amount of data, and using the necessary ICT standards and architecture, the data could be easily used not only by the Central Bank, but by individual governments, by the Central Bank, and by international agencies for use and analysis to determine the performance of the organisations and the countries themselves.  We had tax administration, which allows us to do online tax payments, and now that's been implemented in four of the OECS countries, so Dominique, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, and the Grenadines you have the facility of being able to do online tax payments.
Then we have the customs administrations.  Now with a common economic union, one of the things you need to find out is about the performance of trade, and that custom, the customs information using a single platform allows us to better analyze the data that we have available to us, so that that will feed in not only to the OECS trade and its performance, but into the wider regional country and its performance, that ties in also with the department of statistics which require our reporting to them on an annual basis.
We have also implemented what is called the EPPSS which is the electronic pharmaceutical procurement system, and what that does is allows countries of the OECS and in this case all nine countries of the OECS utilize the EPPSS to be able to single ‑‑ yeah, ten to four, the procurement of pharmaceutical, the benefit is that you get a more reliable supply at a low cost, so therefore, and that really has benefited our organisations tremendously.
And then we have social and productive sectors.  Now, the multipurpose ID and its ability to manage the flow of passengers between all the countries, now, that has not ‑‑ the framework is in place, but that has not ‑‑ the software has not been implemented, but there's tremendous benefit for that.  So essentially what our e‑Government project was intended to do is to unify the OECS by creating standards for data and creating applications which would speak to each other so that they were interoperable, and instead of having a set of applications which might have been self‑contained, so therefore we're able to better understand what the holistic implications of the kinds of trade, the kinds of activities, economic activities, so that when we look at the e‑Government issues, such as the socioeconomic issues, we are better able to get an idea of what actually is happening in our countries.
One of the IG issues, some of the IG issues that are being addressed is as we know, the physical infrastructure, one of the IG concerns is the physical infrastructure, and that's owned by both public and private ‑‑ privately owned infrastructure in Antigua ‑‑   owned by ICG, public utilities authority.  We have our legal ‑‑ the IG legal issues, we are addressing through various policies.  Our economic issue is because of our economic union, and our similar agriculture ‑‑ I'm sorry, similar industries which are primarily agriculture and tourism, we're able to address that readily.  Our developmental issues which we are looking at, for instance, our content through the capacity building, using Internet as an engine for growth, content creation because right now the OECS Secretary‑General, it's quite a bit of content for the OECS, and countries funnel the information through the OECS which then, of course, get dispersed as necessary.  And issues on human rights, what we do essentially is I would say that we conform pretty much.  We don't actively view that as a threat in the OECS, and these sociocultural issues are easily addressed.
What we have found is that the EGRIP project, which started as a project but we know that is a programme, has helped the OECS countries to unite, especially in the area of forging common relationships, together with e‑governance and e‑Government in all of the six of the nine countries, that is the six independent countries of the nine OECS countries. 
>> CINTRA SOOKNANAN:  Thank you very much, Desiree, for that extremely detailed and holistic approach towards what the OECS is doing with regards to open data.
Next I would like to introduce Bevil Wooding.  Bevil is going to speak about Internet governance supporting the Caribbean open data community.  Bevil is speaking on behalf of the private sector.  He's an Internet strategist at Packet Clearing House.
>> BEVIL WOODING:  Good morning, everyone.  I actually want to follow on from Desiree by indicating one of the or several of the advantages that a small island developing states have as it relates to data generally that present opportunities in the face of some of the constraints that exist in these size markets and territories.  One of course is the possibility for open data initiatives to get relatively quick national level and regional level visibility because of the scale in size.  Related to that is the whole issue of the fact that projects and initiatives like those that referred from Patrick and from Keisha can be initiated at relatively low costs, particularly when contrasted or juxtaposed against the impact at a societal level.
And the third thing that is particularly important as we discussed connecting SIDS with access to data is important is the whole issue that pilots or small programmes or projects can quickly scale from national to regional level once it has the proper support.  And it is this condition that once it has the proper support that I think is one of the keys to making sure that the connectivity promise is really realized.
With any open data, with think data initiative or open data initiative, there have to be a number of actors within the landscape or across the landscape who have to be activated, and I think when we look if we use the OECS as an example and you see the effort that has gone into the policy side of things, which is an important and critical aspect, the difference or the gap between the policy dimension and the actual realization of what I consider to be movement from headline projects to an actual data driven development culture rests on several critical factors.  One of those is the availability of a content creation tier that can take the data once it is collected and collated and actually translate it into meaningful applications and services that can be used not just for decision‑making, but also for service delivery, also for research, for innovation catalyzing, and what I have both been involved in and what we are attempting to encourage across the entire Caribbean region and beyond is the development of that tier that deals with the activation component of data initiatives.  And within the OECS, within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, that is taking the form of capacity building programmes that attempt to link Government's stated intention to have accountability and transparency and to create an enabling environment using technology to translate that into specific activity that brings not just young persons with an interest in application development, but also brings the academic institutions into the fray as it relates to putting a sustainable initiative in place to deal with producing data and identifying needs that can take advantage of available datasets.
Now, the interesting thing about this in the context of SIDS is that it can happen with or without direct Government support on the onset.  Because the data is now more readily accessible, it is possible and we are seeing, and I'll give some examples, it is possible for organisations in the private sector and within Civil Society to either create datasets or take advantage of available datasets to create proofs of concept that can then allow governments to understand how and why this is important.
A big part of what we have seen across the region is that while you might have some agency or maybe even some ministries with an understanding of the importance of data as an economic engine and also as a social development engine, the knowledge or the notion of how that applies is not always common, and so the best way to communicate that, we have found, has been to put the proof out there.  And this proof unlike larger markets where that proof might take cost or it might take a long period of time, you find that within the region it's possible to have very short‑term but high‑impact initiatives.  
One example I want to use comes out of Trinidad and Tobago where one of the organisations that I'm affiliated with, Right Path Foundation, partnered with the Trinidad and Tobago Energy Initiative Transparency Agency, TTEITA, they're responsible for taking energy sector data and presenting it to the public so that it could be scrutinized, so that there can be an open mechanism for the public to understand how energy sector revenues were being collected and how they were being applied.  The partnership between Right Path Foundation and TTEITA involved taking a report, which was actually done in a very traditional manner, create a book and put it out there with tables and translating that into an open data format that could be interrogated by anyone, and as part of the exercise we had to attach to it an application and creation programme and also a media awareness and sensitization programme and the idea was simple.  The desire to share information is not sufficient to get information out to the audiences that needs to have access to it, and so if you have any initiative, whether it is within Government or whether it is within the private sector, that purports to make data available to the public or to specific audiences, then that has to be attached to capacity to translate that data into meaningful information and knowledge, and so the link that had to be created, and this link applies even in the initiatives that are coming up in the OECS, is a training, is a media engagement, it is the academic sector involvement so that the connection between the theory or the promise of datasets as a means for economic activity and transparency can be translated into oh, this is how it actually works in the real world and this is how I can use it and it applies.  That is one of the key enablers, I say key, but in addition to the actual activity of getting people together, interfacing with the media, pulling together groups of software developers and so on, of course, there is also the necessary component of ensuring that there are champions to carry activities beyond events.  And that is to keep the whole data movement in the public space where public is not just general public, public is in the area of Government ministers, in the minds of private sector practitioners, in the hearts of young developers and innovators who can actually benefit from datasets that connect both within countries but also across regions.
I'm sorry, I wanted to leave you with those thoughts about connecting with the data, there has to be a who, who are the sponsor, champion, coordinators and the bodies responsible for measurement but there also must be a what, what is it being used to connect, is it decision‑making, is it public engagement, is it, is it transparency and accountability, is it research and innovation, a lot of times these questions are not treated sufficiently to allow for the embedding of the culture of openness and data utilization to really get deep inside of practice.  And then the last thing is the how, what policy, what education practice, what technology.  As you know, there is a lot of work within the Caribbean region around infrastructure, particularly critical Internet infrastructure.  The region has now close to nine Internet exchange points.  Those exchange points allow for the exchange of local traffic within each jurisdiction.  Those exchange points must now be connected to these repositories to allow for that data to be as widely available and as conveniently available as possible to consumers.  Thank you.
>> CINTRA SOOKNANAN:  Okay.  So I just want to thank the panel for being so good with time and presenting so succinctly.  I now wish to open up questions or comments from the audience.  Yes, I see one.
>> AUDIENCE:  Yes.  Is it working?  I'm Deirdre Williams and I'm from the Caribbean, I'm the remote moderator but this has got not very much to do with that.  Yesterday I attended, I was remote moderator for two workshops dealing with People with Disabilities, and listening particularly to Bevil's presentation, I was wondering how ‑‑ I wrote it down ‑‑ how do you get the need for the data to be made public from the bottom‑up?  Because sometimes I'm in communication with the ‑‑ it has a very long name, the National Association of and for People with Disabilities in St. Lucia, and they're not very well funded, they're not very well resourced at all, and sometimes I think they're a little timid.  Well, let's say they're repressed.  And if you got data out in St. Lucia about the number of people that are afflicted with being deaf or being blind, how big is the problem, and what could be done about it, this would be a splendid thing, but does somebody at the top have to recognize that and do it or is there a pathway for the people at the bottom to start saying, hey, talk about us a little bit more?  Thank you.   
>> BEVIL WOODING:  Deirdre, that goes directly to what I started off as saying is a benefit of the small island structure.  Issues like you raise whether it's people with disabilities or let's take another example that is quite current and something we are looking at quite actively, the education sector and the fact that at a raw performance metrics level it can be concluded that the region is not doing as well as it ought to or as well as it could, that information out in the public space in a nonacademic format that allows people to make much more informed conclusions about what exactly is the state of affairs is a key part to moving the political machinery.  A lot of times it's very easy to suppress that information, it comes out in hidden reports or in reports that don't get published or distributed very far.  And the whole point of getting these in open formats or in interrogable formats is to allow for other speakers to amplify not just the opinions but the conclusions that are contained and embedded inside of some of these reports.  So my response is from the bottom‑up there is actually now more than ever a chance to empower the ground‑up mobilization of opinion around some of these issues based on fact and based on information that is public information but is hidden from the public observation by presenting it in formats and in systems that don't actually ever reach to the audiences that ought to care about it.
So it is one great example of how data, when shared effectively or when made available appropriately, can make a huge impact in our policy shape, in our actions taken and how priorities are set.
>> CINTRA SOOKNANAN:  Okay.  There are a couple other panelists that want to respond to this question. 
>> DESIREE ZACHARIAH:  I would like to respond to that to indicate that as Bevil indicated, sometimes the data that we see, when used in a system as we know, set in our priorities, and sometimes what you really need to do are just make small changes, small, very implementable changes, because just using the OECS again, because that is the mentioned cases, we're talking about a very small environment and therefore sometimes it's a matter of just having the right person available to provide the right level of service.  But having that information confined to report doesn't help anybody.  So what that data does is if it can be provided so that it's available, so that it's easily analyzable, is that it will allow implementation of small, very small changes essentially. 
>> KEISHA TAYLOR:  Just one short point.  I think that it's a combination of two things.  If the citizens need to be able to lobby Government to actually get information on certain things that they need and when they do, great things could happen because then they could also be able to try to engage the tech community and those that are interested in disability issues, to actually modify services.  To give one example, the Council they actually release data on information with regards to geographic information which helps other people develop an app that helped people with mobility issues, know where exactly they can and can't go.  So just a simple thing like the Government doing that, someone saying, okay, this is good, let's just create something that could help us, that's I think the way to go.  And also there's also an onus of those that have disabilities to also try to find ways to get things done and to use information or gather information that's of relevance to them to be able to do that. 
>> PATRICK HOSEIN:  In the case of the repository that we started, we've gone around to various organisations and ministries requesting data, and we have been successful in some cases, but in many cases the organisations prefer to have the requests sort of sanctioned by the Government first before they give it out.  So that tends to be the holdup.
>> CINTRA SOOKNANAN:  Just before we move onto Tracy's question, I just want to thank you for raising this, it certainly is cross‑cutting, not just for disabilities but also in other areas affecting society, such as gender, race, women empowerment, et cetera.  Tracy, you have the floor.  Thank you.
(Pause).
>> AUDIENCE:  Hi, good morning, this is Tracy Hackshaw.  I'm a supporter of open data, very much so, but I'm going to wear my other hat here and say something that kind of leans on what Dr. Hosein just reported on.  In terms of the data, there's an issue of responsibility and who you give the data to and so on and so forth and what kind of data.  I'm not aware, Desiree could probably advise, in which countries is there an approved data classification policy which is able to differentiate between what is public, private, what can be open, what should not be open and so on.  What I'm trying to get at is especially in light of recent issues, there could be some challenges with privacy of data and releasing certain types of data might actually violate certain rights and freedoms of other people and other organisations.  
So without a proper policy in place, it maybe that, and in my day job I'm wearing the hat that I wear, I have to balance the need to open data and the desire to have that going along with the responsibility of a Government in terms of trying to get the right data out there at the right time and in the right way.  So Desiree first, and anybody else, where do you see the data policies, data protection, legislation, free information laws, intersecting with these issues and how, so it's not just a question of how can we solve the problem in cases where those don't exist.  So as Dr. Hussein said, you ask governments, ask agencies and they can't release it, not because they don't want to, but they don't know how and what to release.
>> DESIREE ZACHARIAH:  Essentially what would happen or traditionally the department of statistics happens the control of any kind of data and the release of national data.  Now, that's a big question, what data do we release and what amount of it do we release?  Now, if you're talking about sensitive data, especially when you have one or two actors, you really can't release that particular type of data without it being aggregated.  When you have small ‑‑ let's use an example of data.  If you have a major player, let's suppose in Antigua and Barbuda, you have a major trader in that country, releasing that data if it's a single trader, releasing information about that particular trader, which it can't be done because essentially it exposes that trader to its competitors, but what you do is you release that data aggregated with the rest of the OECS, and when I say the ‑‑ the countries, Antigua, and Barbuda, Dominique, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Vincent, plus the dependent countries Montserrat, the BVI and Anguilla, so by releasing that data in aggregate form then it then gives a certain ‑‑ the trader the necessary protection.  Now, determine what kind of data you can release.  Now, you look at hospital data from hospital information system.  It's okay, there are times you have to release data concerning maybe trends.  What day is the best day, what kinds of times is the hospital engaged?  What are the peak times?  That helps the physician in charge to determine the number of physicians, et cetera.  You talk about things like what kind of illnesses that you have in a country so that the necessary heads of departments, heads of ministries can better plan.  So there are certain things and generally the school of thought is that you release data which is not sensitive, obviously, but then who determines what is sensitive and what is not sensitive?  And it depends, one country to the next.  And essentially the basic classification of sensitivity is if it is going to negatively impact on a particular function, a particular individual, then it's best if it's released in aggregated form rather than in disaggregated form.  So for instance, in Antigua and Barbuda the medical benefits scheme which is the provider of quite a bit of financed health services need to know the kinds of illnesses and the number of persons let's suppose with the lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and coronary ‑‑ exactly, high blood pressure, those kinds of things.  Using the information that comes from the clinics as well as from national hospital, they have been able to come up with a good idea and then they publish this information which is then used both locally, nationally, and regionally for better planning, so then this information then ties into the procurement of the necessary drugs, for the Antigua and Barbuda and then it's compared to the kind of procurement you need for the other countries as well, so you can look at what are the lifestyles in Antigua and Barbado negatively impacted and we can look at what's happening in Grenada and St. Lucia, and if you find that Antigua's statistics show that we need to make certain lifestyle changes, and that's one of the things that is done, and in fact, in Antigua and Barbuda, now that statistic has empowered the medical benefit scheme to start various programmes in improving lifestyles, so you have several national walks, you see there's been encouragement of persons who on any given day you find hundreds of persons going out and walking.  Now, that programme has been adopted by several other countries as well because it's working.  The number of instances, the hospital has probably seen a lot more instances of persons coming in for certain instances, and what has happened I know at one of the hospitals is that one of the particular, in the dialysis unit, one of the physicians who is responsible for the dialysis unit has indicated that what he wants to get is data on people who are predisposed to needing dialysis, hemophilia, because it is just so costly.  Now, if he identifies the people who are at higher risk for diabetes, the people who are at higher risk for kidney ‑‑ for high blood pressure, those two sets of people will allow him to target first and implement preventable methods, which means that the costs of providing that will go down and costs in general will go down. 
>> PATRICK HOSEIN:  Tracy, I agree with you about data policies in general, we have data policies on our website and these were generated after consulting with multiple stakeholders, et cetera, but what the data we've been requesting from organisations, we've been specific because we didn't want to get into too much legal issues.  We've been just requesting data that is already public.  Okay?  The only difference is that it's not available electronically, so then we have a booklet or something or a table.  This case of agriculture data which we now get from the Ministry of Agriculture, all of it is available on the website, but it wasn't displayed enough, you know, we could go unscrape it but it was too messy, so they just provided the same data directly to us.  So yeah, we've been keeping it simple, so far just requesting data that is already publicly available.
>> KEISHA TAYLOR:  Quickly, I just wanted to say that it is difficult to reconcile this because the more information you put out there, the more likely it becomes identifiable, but I think when this whole open data movement was started, privacy was not one of the issues that was discussed at all.  All it was doing was we were going to try to get information and build apps and services around it, but now there's a lot of groups and even Government initiatives that are looking at the ethical implications of open data as well and I think that as we the Caribbean start doing and developing things, we do need a policy but it will need to be adapted and, you know, adjusted based on how things go and we'll have to learn as we go as well because there could be unintended consequences to putting information out there, one of the most popular examples was the community in India that especially if your community knows nothing about it, they put information out there about land ownership and basically what happened was that a lot of the people were able to exploit people and take their land away from them because they have that information.  So I do think that we'll need to learn as we go, we'll also need strong Civil Society involvement and any kind of process is not just from the Government.
>> Yes.  So Tracy, there's a little bit of a tension in the legal environment.  Some of our countries don't have data protection law, but most everybody has access to information law, and the access to information law as intentioned and everywhere across the Caribbean there's a British style of secrets that is still in play and because there has been no reconciliation between the Access to Information Act and Official Secrets Act, the tension remains as well, one of the reasons you get from some Government agencies give us the data, they tell you, well, we can't because Official Secrets Act says something until you remind them there's Access to Information Act.
The other problem you have is the way that it is administered.  Typically Access to Information Act is administered out of the information ministry or the office of the Prime Minister.  And the Official Secrets Act rests in the Ministry of National security and so on.  And two sets of bureaucrats don't talk to each other and they don't see how this thing comes up.  And Dr. Hosein mentioned the fact that agricultural data was available in Jamaica and that's the low‑hanging fruit because just about everybody takes it that agriculture data is available.  It's quite right.  It's available, it's there, it's not in machine readable and accessible, so it was not a big step to move agriculture data into the rim.  The other thing you might want to consider is the regulatory agencies collect a lot of data, and I've been having an ongoing argument about traffic data, the law   compels them to capture traffic data, the law also compels them to share the data for public consultation.  But getting them to make the data available in a way that is transparent and readable is always a challenge.  I will tell you that if you try to find the traffic data on the OAR as website, you can go ahead and try but it's going to be very difficult for you to find t but you can ask directly somebody and remind them what the law compels them to do, and they'll send the traffic data to you.  It might want be in the form that you can easily use and so on.  So there are those two issues, and Desiree came up with one of them.  It's also good for you in all of these open data initiatives to have a way to demonstrate the value associated with having the data, and maybe you have to go anonymize data in some instance and user the aggregation of the data to give people comfort that you're not sharing personal information privately, but oftentimes I find an open data initiative works well when you can actually demonstrate from somewhere the value of having that open data and what the outcomes and outputs are from processing that data.
>> CINTRA SOOKNANAN:  Okay, thank you, Carlton.  I just request the panelists just to respond and as well give their closing remarks, since we're pressed on time.  We'll start with Bevil.
>> BEVIL WOODING:  I do want to continue on what Carlton was saying.  I made the point on the initiatives on small island states being relatively low cost in terms of implementation.  I will say but much effort is required because you do find in a number of cases, and actually the majority of cases, data that is supposed to be or that can be reasonably defined as public data is withheld from the public for one reason or the other, sometimes behind obscure key and locks, other times simple the fear that if this came out, my ministry, my Government may be embarrassed or compromised in some way.  And to me, one of the big steps in moving from the low‑hanging fruit easy applications into that culture of openness is to prove the utility of openness and to prove the utility of datasets that are made available to as widely public as possible, in as open a format as possible, and I think that really is where the challenge and the effort of the next phase of this movement lies, in proving the value proposition for datasets made available to as wide a public as possible.  Thank you.
>> DESIREE ZACHARIAH:  One addendum we have a citizen act which defines how data is to be disseminated.  What I'm not aware of is that there are a lot of instances where data that should be provided, at least from the collection source, is not provided.  What I know is that ‑‑ I'm sorry, at the agency source is not provided.  I know at the collection source often you can't get the information, so you ask for input and you don't get that information.  And of course the agency response normally for collecting that is the department of statistics.  Now, we don't often have, just because of the structure of the countries in the OECS, we don't normally have Civil Society who normally goes out and gets that information.  They will collect it generally on an as‑needed basis, but when we look at the department of statistics and what they collect, they normally as far as I'm aware publish it in the required format.  However, what they do, though, is maintain the privacy of that data.  But using the initiatives for the standardization of the data, for the distribution of the data, for it being available in electronic format and for having it available online so that it can be used by anybody is one of the things that the OECS has been involved with, and in fact, when it comes to economic data, the Central Bank has taken quite a bit of ownership of that and it's normally readily available.  When it comes to health data, you normally are able to get that from the various departments of statistics.  When it comes to data which will compromise particularly individuals, you would find yourself in a position where you may not be able to get it, not because it's not available, but because there are constraints.  One of the things I will say, though, is that sometime the public may not be as readily aware of the value of that data and, hence, may not be demanding it as readily as they should, but I'm not aware of times when it's demanded, that it cannot be, and it's available, that it is not provided.
>> KEISHA TAYLOR:  Yes, use is very important.  I feel like I've been monitoring how the whole data discussions have been going on for quite some years now, and now we've moved on from making data openly accessible to be used, and I think those two need to be tied together.  If you make data available, who is to say that's what people actually want?  You need to make data available that people actually would like to have.  So I think that it's important to build awareness and talk about data in practical terms.  So when people think data, they hear mathematics and they hear statistics and Excel spread sheets and they think oh, that's not for me, but the example I gave earlier about the project in Bali, you can't help develop it in communities that aren't as technical savvy and actually may make them become more interested and learning new skills and, you know, developing new things.  In closing, I would also like to say I think it's really interesting to see what the UN is also doing.  They call for data revolution post millenium development goals, and so right now they're discussing how exactly they're going to use data in progressing development, and they're looking at how, you know, how data could better improve or include people and, you know, gender, equality among gender and all that type of stuff.  So I think it's going, it's developing, and to see that the UN is also taking this on board is encouraging.
>> PATRICK HOSEIN:  One thing we did not touch on is Internet of Things, IoT.  With IoT, we'll have a flood of data available to us, and this will open data issue will become even more important because it becomes important as to how we anonymize, aggregate, collect, disseminate data.  You know, say, for instance, at some point in time you have realtime health information from every citizen.  How do you make use of that without affecting privacy issues, et cetera?  So I think open data will become even more important as we start having all these censor networks and smart grids and et cetera.  Thanks.
>> CINTRA SOOKNANAN:  Okay.  So from the debate, we can conclude that the data that results from Internet access and mobile connectivity can aid better policy and programmes, to help SIDS improve Internet governance and resiliency in their countries.  I just want to thank the members of the panel for their thoughts and thank the audience for your interest, and bring the session to a close.
(12:36)