Science, Energy and Technology Minister, Dr Andrew Wheatley, says embracing open data can bring significant economic benefits for Jamaica.
He noted, for example, that open data is set to impact the gross domestic product (GDP) of countries within the European Union (EU), enabling their economies to see “positive results”.
He said it is estimated that approximately 100,000 jobs will be created within the EU over the next couple of years, and estimates indicate that over US$2.2 billion in savings will be seen in the public administration arena alone, due to increased use of open data.
The minister’s remarks came in a speech read by Senior Advisor, Trevor Forrest, at the opening ceremony of a three-day Open Data Literacy Boot Camp at the Mona School of Business and Management (MSBM), University of the West Indies, on May 28.
Open data is the idea that some data should be freely available to everyone to use and republished as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control.
Wheatley pointed out that Jamaica has been making strides towards becoming a truly data-driven country.
He cited partnership with the World Bank and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development in the creation of an Open Data Readiness Assessment, which shows that Jamaica could achieve a successful open data programme and makes recommendations on how this could be realised.
He noted, further, that an Open Data Policy is being finalised for submission to Cabinet shortly. The policy invites stakeholders to partner with government to transform data into tools and applications to create innovations to address challenges faced by citizens.
Jamaica also launched an open data portal in June 2016, which enables free and easy access to government information online, making the country the first in the English-speaking Caribbean to have such an innovation.
The portal has a full suite of cataloguing, publishing and visualisation features that allows government entities, non-profit organisations and universities to easily publish data to the public.
Wheatley said that with data “we make better decisions; with data we open opportunities for innovation and new products; and with data we increase efficiencies in government and provide better services to our citizens”.
Meanwhile, Director at the Centre of Excellence for Information Technology-enabled Innovation at the MSBM, Dr Maurice McNaughton, said the boot camp represents “an extremely important evolution in the open data ecosystem in Jamaica and, by extension, the Caribbean”.
He said it is important that the Government be committed and serious about open data as an agenda, as enshrined in the Open Data Policy.
Hosted by the Ministry, with support from the World Bank, Code for Africa and the SlashRoots Foundation, the Open Data Literacy Boot Camp aims to equip participants with basic data literacy.
This will enable them to understand and interpret data, so that it can be used for data-driven storytelling in the case of journalists, and for other civic data projects.
The boot camp is hands-on, and involves exercises with real data from Jamaica’s open data portal at http://data.gov.jm/ and other local sources.
Participants will learn how to find data, how to acquire data by web scraping, how to analyse data (looking for patterns, stories or clues) and how to present data in an informative and engaging way.