It has often been said that data is the new oil - a metaphor that signifies that data is the fuel that is propelling 4th Industrial Revolution. In much the same way that oil powered the industrial age, data is fueling the information age – powering economies, driving innovations and creating new opportunities. It is important to note however, that data in its raw form may not hold value; it is the processing, analysis and interpretation of data that unleashes its potential.
Data, in its essence, is not merely numbers and figures. It is the embodiment of our societies, reflecting our strengths, revealing our weaknesses, and providing a roadmap to forge ahead towards development that is truly inclusive and sustainable.
The OECS Regional Data Governance Council is designed to be the beacon that guides our collective journey in managing and utilizing data across our region. The Revised Treaty of Basseterre mandating the establishment of the Economic Union speaks to several imperatives that presuppose and require the standardization, systematic collection, effective management and intelligent utilization of data. These imperatives include:
- Balanced and sustainable economic and social progress and cohesion
- Harmonious development through inter-sectoral linkages
- Continuous economic growth and expansion through optimal utilisation of domestic and Economic Union-wide resources
- Accelerated improvement in the standard of living; reduction and ultimately elimination of poverty
- Increased levels of economic and social stability.
To address the vital data and information requirements of the Economic Union in a holistic, integrated, inclusive, and coordinated way, a regional approach emerged as being indispensable, thus establishing a single-entry point for investing in official statistics. In so doing, efficiency gains, economies of scale, aid effectiveness, and programme alignment would be hallmarks of a broad and dynamic statistical development agenda.
But let us not forget, that data governance is not merely a technological or regulatory challenge. It is inherently tied to our social fabric, impacting our economies, our policies, and our everyday lives. And as we delve deeper into the realms of the digital world, the necessity of ensuring that data serves the people, all people, equitably and justly becomes paramount.
Regional Strategy for the Development of Statistics (RSDS) and the Regional Data Governance Council (RDGC).
The need for a regional strategy was communicated and articulated by Member States and encouraged by the development partners who have been investing in official statistics for well over 35 years. To that end, the National Statistics Offices, the OECS Commission, and the ECCB collaborated on the design of the OECS Regional Strategy for the Development of Statistics (RSDS) with the support of the World Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and Partnership for Investment in Statistics in the 21st Century (PARIS21).
Further to this, the OECS Commission, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, in collaboration with the World Bank, commenced the OECS Data for Decision Making (DDM) Regional Project, which was approved on May 17, 2022, by the World Bank Board of Directors. The project’s development objective is to improve the capacity of Participating (and ultimately all) Eastern Caribbean Countries to:
- Produce and publicly disseminate statistical data for country and regional-level analytics, and
- Provide an immediate and effective response to an Eligible Emergency.
An essential outcome of the project is the complete redesign of the organizational and regulatory/legal architecture for statistics in the OECS Commission and the strengthening and empowerment of the National Statistical Offices in the Member States. This re-engineering is absolutely necessary for their modernization and to enable these institutions to effectively deploy new technologies, adhere to international statistics best practices and obligate them as official repositories of all data and statistics.
The Data for Decision Making Project is providing the resources to establish the Regional Data Governance Council (RDGC). The RDGC Council is established as:
- A high-level coordination arrangement to guide the development and oversee the implementation of the OECS RSDS.
- A body to ensure that data harmonization in support of the Regional Strategy for the Development of Statistics is fulfilled through high-quality statistical support activities.
- A decision-making body for the governance of official statistics in the OECS in support of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre.
The Council will be tasked with harmonizing data policies and practices, including how economic, social, climate and environmental data are captured, produced, managed, and propagated across the OECS region. The RDGC and its sub-committees and working groups will lead the decisions on statistical harmonization, on the review new instruments and methods, and make recommendations to the NSOs based on the findings.
Our new Council is mandated to ensure that data is managed, protected, and utilized effectively, safeguarding the integrity and privacy of our citizens while ensuring transparency and accountability in our digital undertakings.
As we inaugurate the Regional Data Governance Council today, we are not just launching an entity; we are nurturing a vision - a vision of regional cooperation, ethical data management, and data-driven decision-making that propels our societies towards a future where technology is a tool of empowerment, innovation, and shared prosperity.
Together, under the auspices of this Council, let us strive to pave the way for a future where data is a catalyst for positive change, innovation thrives, and no one is left behind in our journey towards digital transformation.
Thank you for being here, for sharing in this vision, and for being active contributors to a future shaped by responsible and empowering data governance.
Let us embark on this exciting journey with commitment and collaborative spirit, ensuring a future where our digital endeavours blossom under the diligent guardianship of robust data governance.