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CARICOM needs to be prepared for data revolution, Grenada forum warned
Published on June 4, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada -- As the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) seeks to position itself to take advantage of the data revolution, it has been cautioned to prepare for an increased demand for information and a difference in the way it is collected and disseminated.

Participants at a high level forum on statistics held on 26 May in Grenada were of one accord that the data revolution had to be taken seriously and that the region had to revolutionise the way it operated.

The theme of the one-day forum was “A Data Revolution for Sustainable Development with a new international initiative to improve the quality of statistics and information available to citizens”.

At the core of the data revolution is the need for better, faster and more accessible data in order to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development. The collection process and the use of information communication technologies are key factors in the data revolution.

Representative of the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the Twenty-First Century (PARIS21), El Iza Mohamedou, stressed that harmonization, standardization and validation of statistics would be critical to the Community’s involvement in the revolution.

During the Forum’s wrap-up session to chart the way forward, Mohamedou said that the changes would be evident in the greater demand for data, the modification of data collection and data analysis.

“The demand for data will be part of this data revolution. It will be bigger and it will be more diversified demand for data. Another aspect that national statistical systems and in particular national statistics offices (NSOs) will have to take into account is that data collection systems will also be modified. We are looking at new sources. We’re looking at big data mining, satellite imagery, new technologies that would affect data collection processes. Data analysis will also change and that has a lot to do with the funding and making sure that there are data scientists within the realms of the NSOs coming out of the regional universities and the regional centres of excellence.

“Data dissemination will also change drastically. We’re looking at faster, wider, greater data dissemination and that also calls for micro data. The role of the NSOs will also change; NSOs need to be prepared for regular challenges. The data revolution will affect communication and will affect leadership skills of NSOs staff and NSO heads, in particular. The statistical laws will also be affected by this data revolution in terms of validation of the data that comes out and in terms of confidentiality,” Mohamedou said.

Referring to what she described as the “existential threat” of the data revolution that needed to be “taken seriously”, she pointed to a recommendation for global surveys to replace NSO work. She advised on the better use of administrative data to counter this threat.

“The ultimate goal should be to look at statistics as having the same vision that monitoring and evaluation has managed. There is not a single project nowadays without an M&E component that covers at least one to five percent of that project costs. The aim is for statistics to have the same fate. That no development project is put out without having a clear statistical goal that goes through the national statistical capacity,” she stressed.

Underscoring the importance of the data revolution, Crispin Gregoire of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) pointed out that the Caribbean was being disadvantaged by not having the most up-to-date information to guide decision-making. This, he said, in turn, limits the development of a framework that is relevant to the Caribbean context.

The Community, he said, risked a repeat of the case of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) where, in the absence of baseline data, it was difficult to develop plans towards the achievement of the goals.

“Having access to data means we can build highly adaptive and sustainable societies,” he told the gathering of senior government officials, representatives of other international organisations, and statisticians.

The forum featured more than 20 presentations.
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