Budget 2017-18, where are we with Open Data?

June 9, 2017
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In his 2017-18 budget speech, the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance & Economic Development of Mauritius, Hon. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth announced the setting up of an Open Data Portal under the category “Making further strides on our ambition of a fully-fledged digital economy”. Item no. 138 says:

Eighth, Government is setting up an Open Data Portal as a single point of reference for public datasets.

There was no mention of Open Data in the budget speech of 2016-17.

On the 1st April 2016, Cabinet agreed to the introduction of a National Open Data Policy. It was said that:

Data held by Government constitute a strategic national resource, which represents considerable value for stimulating economic growth, improving service delivery, transforming the policy outcomes of the country and contributing to achieve the “second economic miracle” and Vision 2030. The main objective of the National Open Data Policy is to create economic value out of the releases of Government datasets as open data.

On the 12th December 2016 a call for bid was issued by the Ministry of Technology, Communication & Innovation, for the procurement of an Open Data Portal. The procurement document describes the aims of the Government of Mauritius. By opening up data through the Open Data portal, Government aims to promote:

Transparency – citizens being able to freely access information about what their Government is doing;

Public Service Improvement – giving citizens the raw material to engage and contribute to making public services better as well as improve the quality of decision-making

Innovation – public data, and their re-use, are key resources for social innovation and economic growth where businesses and individuals can develop new tools and value-added services in order to work with, analyse, and make sense of the data.

Efficiency – Governments can come up with smarter and more efficient public services and applications by allowing information to be more easily reused within Government and enabling citizens to help improve data quality.

There was also a note about the choice of software for the Open Data Portal.

As such, the Open Data Portal solution should be based on widely used and sustainably supported package (e.g. CKAN Open Source data portal package) rather than development/programming of a portal solution from scratch.

I participated in the Open Data Readiness Assessment conducted by the world Bank in 2015, along with folks from various local user groups.

It was commonly agreed then that the focus should be on the release of datasets rather than spending time, resources and energy on setting up a platform. Some participants suggested that even a simple FTP share would suffice, what matters is the data and not the means. I suggested using existing platforms, i.e MS Sharepoint or the Data Portal of Statistics Mauritius, for an initial release of datasets.

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