Open government data contains tremendous potential for individuals and organizations in all sectors of society — business, civil society and government — as it promotes transparency, growth and transformation.
On October 1, 2018, CAPRI launched a study proposing steps for Jamaica to better harness the power of open government data, conducted in partnership with NIA and USAID. Jamaica, despite significant developments in its open data programme in recent years, has not yet derived any noteworthy benefits, mainly because the country has not adequately followed through on its open data commitments and stated intentions. To discuss our findings, we invited Mr. David Soutar (Co-Founder and Principal of Slashroots Foundation) and Mr. Andrew Evelyn (IT Manager of the Consumer Affairs Commission and member of the government’s Open Data committee) to join Desiree Philips, lead researcher on the study and main presenter for the evening, on the panel. As Ms. Phillips shared, “Jamaica’s open data programme has advanced further than most of its counterparts in the Caribbean, placing it at the top of most regional rankings as there have been legislative developments (data protection legislation tabled; open data policy in development), infrastructural developments (portal), as well as capacity building through data training programmes, however the country has experienced very limited impact from its open data programme thus far.” Citing examples from around the world, she explained that there is a global thrust towards the liberalization of data, with governments allowing greater access to, and use of, data by citizens as it has shown to generate significant social and economic benefits.
CAPRI recommends that the Jamaican government establish the GoJ open data policy as a matter of urgency; make the Access to Information law a complement, not a competitor, to open data; capitalize on strong data demand and user capabilities, to extract more value from open data; identify and allocate adequate resources to maintain and expand the open data infrastructure; establish flexible frameworks that allow for the evolution of the open data programme; and push for regional consensus on open data. Following this event, CAPRI will be advocating for increased access to and use of open government data in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean, in partnership with all stakeholders