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Ja short on brainpower to mine data - Gordon

Published:Wednesday | November 26, 2014 | 11:00 AM
GORDON
File State minister in the Ministry of Science Technology Energy and Mining, Julian Robinson.
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DR PETER-John Gordon, a lecturer in economics at the University of the West Indies, Mona, has said Jamaica does not have the capacity to do major data mining.

Gordon - who was in the audience as the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI), presented a paper at the University of the West Indies, Mona on the impact of an open data policy on Jamaica's economy - said "we don't have brainpower" to mine all the data being produced by state agencies.

"We don't have the quantum of people to mine data to the nth degree. But if you have people all over the world doing this kind of stuff, if we make our data available, they will unearth for us some stories which our data are telling us," Gordon said.

Open data refers to an emerging concept of making non-proprietary information available to stakeholders, mainly on web-based platforms.

conducted studies

CaPRI said it has conducted studies on three sectors which it said could record significant growth if an open data policy were to be employed. In the area of tourism, for example, CaPRI said such a policy would improve tourism earnings between one and 10 per cent, which is between $2.37 billion and $23.71 billion.

While embracing the concept of open data, Gordon said based on the volume of information in the Survey of Living Conditions, "if you threw all of the UWI resources into that, you would be actually scratching the surface in any one year".

"If this thing is available worldwide, somebody sitting somewhere can make some sort of a link between, say, how far a child lives from school and academic performance. Some question that we might necessarily pose, but once somebody comes up with an answer, it has policy implications," Gordon reasoned.

Julian Robinson, the state minister in the technology ministry, said the Government is already taking steps towards the establishment of an open data policy.

World Bank visit

Robinson said a team from the World Bank is expected to visit Jamaica next month, and at the end of the mission, a comprehensive report will be compiled with recommendations on how to establish a policy of open data.

"All ministries are being assessed, and we expect to identify the gaps that exist currently and to make recommendations on how we can get open data in the country," the minister said.

He said the readiness assessment which is to be led by the World Bank is, among other things, aimed at sensitising critical players, such as civil servants, who would want to hold onto information.

cost recovery

Meanwhile, Gordon has raised concerns that a movement towards making open data a feature of the Jamaican experience could be impacted by the culture of many state agencies to withhold information.

"Some of the agencies that generate these information, they should be involved in cost recovery, but the truth is that they are going to collect peanuts by trying to sell it," Gordon said.

He noted that entities which generate significant data, such as the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, tend to have an inclination to sell the information rather than putting it on their website and making it accessible for all to see.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com