Presentation of the Open Data Readiness Assessment Report Press Conference - May 1 2014

FEATURE ADDRESS

DR. THE HONOURABLE RUPERT T.GRIFFITH

MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Date:    Friday May 1, 2014

Venue:   Conference Room, Level 19, Tower D, International Waterfront Complex, Port of Spain, Trinidad

Time:    12.00 pm

  • The Honourable Rudrinath Indarsingh, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and the Economy
  • Mrs. Ingrid Seerattan, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Science and Technology
  • Ms. Lisa Phillips, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Science and Technology
  • Mr. Andrew Stott, Ms. Eva Clemente and Ms. Rosa Vasileva of the World Bank Group
  • Specially invited guests
  • Members of the Media
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

Good afternoon!

It is my pleasure to have you all here today as we officially report on the findings of the Open Data Assessment, conducted by the members of the World Bank Group.

I am especially heartened to have Andrew Stott and his team in Port of Spain, and note their efforts this past week in conducting a series of stakeholder engagement meetings, in which many of you would have been a part of.

In so doing his team would have received additional feedback from Ministries and State Agencies, The Tobago House of Assembly, Civil Society, and Academia who would have already provided the World Bank Group with information and opinions during this study.

This is all in keeping with our Ministries plan to work together on the most effective path towards the handling and implementation of recommendations of the report.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am encouraged by the findings of the World Bank Group. For while there is much work still to be done on the ground level, a solid foundation exists on which this nation can build its Open Data Readiness Capacity.

The ODRA evaluates readiness based on eight dimensions considered essential for an Open Data initiative that builds a sustainable Open Data ecosystem. These include SENIOR LEADERSHIP, POLICY FRAMEWORK, INSTITUTIONAL STRUCTURES, RESPONSIBILITIES AND CAPABILITIES WITHIN GOVERNMENT, and National Technology and Skills Infrastructure.

As the Minister of Science and Technology, I am pleased to report that we received a yellow or green rating in most of these dimensions, indicating that evidence of readiness is clear in several areas. I will give the task of elaborating on the intricacies behind our assessment to our friends at the World Bank Group, but ladies and gentlemen they are very positive signs.

I also take note that the readiness assessment comes with a call for action, as each dimension proposes a set of actions that can form the basis of an Open Data Action Plan.  I therefore wish to emphasize the commitment of this good Ministry to work alongside the relevant agencies in ensuring that policy work is done and information standards are met.

Ladies and gentlemen, The National ICT Plan 2014 – 2018, approved by Cabinet on 28 November 2013, included the provision that the Ministry of Science and Technology will develop policies to make non-sensitive Government information available to the public in a standardized electronic format.

In this regard, three projects have been adopted within the goals proposed in the ICT Development Plan: the development of an e-Government Strategy; the development of an Open Data Strategy/Policy; and the development of a Data Classification Strategy/Policy.”

Other policies which establish an effective framework for the long term sustainability of an Open Data Programme include the Data Protection Act which was enacted in 2011. Part 1 of this Act came into force on January 6, 2012 and includes the “General Privacy Principles which are applicable to all persons who handle, store or process personal information belonging to another person.” Responsibility for the Data Protection Act has recently been transferred to the Ministry of Science and Technology which enables us to exploit synergies with ICT policies including information security guidelines.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is important that existing policies, laws and regulations with respect to a core set of issues be put in place. In this regard Trinidad and Tobago’s Yellow rating was given on the basis of the existence of an effective Freedom of Information Law, a Statistics Act, and by the facts that some of the key supporting policies on ICT and information management are still under development.

The strengthening of key legal aspects of Open Data will therefore form part of our Ministry’s next steps, as we work towards implementing the action plan set out by the World Bank Group.

Ladies and gentlemen, time will not allow me to touch on all dimensions covered within the Open Data Programme, but it would be remiss of me not to include how our capabilities are strengthened by the work of our agencies.

In addition to handling the “supply side” of creating an Open Data Programme, agencies need the structures and capabilities to engage with communities that reuse Open Data — including developers, companies, non-governmental organizations, other agencies and individual citizens.

To quote from the report:

  • The Ministry of Science and Technology have the relevant capabilities and mandates to lead an Open Data initiative. They are the lead Ministry for the SmarTT National ICT Plan 2014-2018 and they have a broad authority to do so in Plan.
  • iGovTT have the necessary supporting technical skills and capabilities, and oversight of line Ministries’ data systems, to support the Ministry of Science and Technology and data owners in line Ministries in releasing Open Data.
  • The ttconnect.gov.tt site provides an e-government services portal and overall factual and organizational information about the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Many Ministries were willing to consider the release of relevant data as Open Data, and some were keen to do so.

I therefore call for the continued support of relevant agencies including the Intellectual Property Office, and the Central Statistical Office, as we work together to develop a detailed, coherent and sustainable plan, for the implementation of open data, in accordance with the agreed policy, and within the framework of SmarTT.

I must also acknowledge our GREEN rating in Dimension 8: National technology and skills infrastructure. This rating was merited by a number of significant contributing factors. I quote from the report again:

  • A strong base of local IT skills, and more to draw on within the immediate region.
  • Trinidad and Tobago are the base for the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) and a Microsoft Mobile Development Center.
  • There is a new development (“INTEC”) at Tamina Park where major vendors are setting up IT facilities.
  • The growing network of Star.tt Community Access Centers to enable access to the internet and promote its use: 4 centers are currently operational and it is intended that there should eventually be 31.
  • The ICT for seniors programme which has so far given ICT awareness training to over 300 seniors.
  • There is a programme to install networks in schools in order to do more ICT education and integrate ICT into the curriculum.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Open Data offers opportunities for every government to drive innovation, improve public services and engage citizens in new ways. It is therefore an imperative of this government that we act quickly to enhance our data protection and SmarTT policies and standards.

We will be working closely with our external stakeholders as we discuss the handling and implementation of the action plan provided by the World Bank Group, and need your input in this regard.

I wish to reiterate this Ministry’s commitment to fast tracking these Open Data initiatives and thank the World Bank team and the government ODRA team, especially my colleagues at the Ministry of Finance and the Economy, for their vested and productive participation during this study.

I look forward to many great things as a result of this report, and the many socio-economic benefits that will be gained by our citizens.

Thank you and God bless.