Open Data in Trinidad and Tobago

What is open data? Open data is free to use and share and made available in standard formats that facilitate this. The data is available without legal, technological or social restrictions.

Why open data? At a high level we are looking at ease and facilitating data driven decision making and its benefits. We looking at accountability, efficiency and innovation. The open knowledge foundation does a good job of answering this question in their open data handbook under why open data?

As a coder and web developer, I am particularly interested in the apps, visualisations and infographics, among other things, that can be created. At the recently held GDG POS firebase study jam I saw examples of how the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Health covid-19 stats could be nicely graphed and filtered. That data had to be scraped and manually entered instead of being accessible in an open data format.

We are ranked 67th (out of 94) in the 2016 Global Open Data Index with a score of 21%. That is pretty dismal and leaves a lot of room for improvement. From the Open Data Barometer website we see that the data exist and most is available online BUT not in machine readable and useable format. We have and with very little to show. Where is CSO in all of this? They have a nice enough website and platform and some useful stats. Can't be too hard to extend this. Every Ministry should be mandated to provide at least 10 open data feeds as part of their website development to get the ball rolling so to speak.

While researching for this blog post I came across this link that says that Trinidad and Tobago has been withdrawn from the Open Government Partnership. It states that, "This decision follows the 2018 resolution of the OGP Steering Committee to designate Trinidad and Tobago as inactive in OGP due to failure to deliver an action plan since 2016." Open data is a big part of open government.

Open data and open government are things that we should be prioritising. The benefits and needs are clear but we seem to be lacking the will power and guidance. I want to see a dedicated Minister of Technology. Someone who appreciates the importance of open data and who could pick up the slack.


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