Pradeep Sharma: openness builds trust in the society and empowers citizens in relation to state

Nov 18, 2014

UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Kyrgyzstan Pradeep Sharma. Credit: Kairatbek Murzakimov / UNDP.

Honorable Prime Minister, Honorable Minister of Economy, Ambassadors, representatives of the government, distinguished participants.

I would like to extend my warm welcome to all participants of the Open Data Days in Kyrgyzstan and thank the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, World Bank and other partners for their support in putting together this event.

Kyrgyz Open Data Days event is organized as part of the “open government” policy, announced by Kyrgyz Government.

The main goal of this event is to raise awareness amongst key stakeholders of the benefits of “open data” and “open government”. These benefits include boosting economic growth, foreign investment, employment and tourism; improved public services like health and education; combating corruption and arbitrary exercise of powers by officials; and improving public sector efficiency.

More importantly, such openness builds trust in the society and empowers citizens in relation to state. It bridges the gap between state and society. Access to data makes people participate in governance on a daily basis and accountability doesn’t remain an abstract concept exercised only during elections or through the courts but a regular phenomenon. It turns representative democracy into participatory democracy.

As you may know, the new Government Programme and Action Plan for e-Governance introduction in the Kyrgyz Republic for 2014-2017 has been adopted this week in which “Open Government” and “Open Data” concepts play a significant role. We view Open Data as an integral part of our work on improving public sector delivery, government transparency, citizen engagement, as well as improving business climate, boosting economic growth and creating new economic opportunities for Kyrgyz citizens. The potential of Open Data in addressing all of the above challenges is indeed very significant.

There are enabling conditions for the use of open data in the form of the Constitution; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Article 19 of ICCPR; and the Right to Information Act. In addition, the spread of ICTs and digital penetration also enable use of open data. (Kyrgyzstan has nearly 6 million mobile users which opens up huge possibilities). Right to Information may be called the mother of all rights as it enables realisation of other human rights.

There are some promising examples from around the world already:

  • The Danish address database generates 70 times more value in direct reuse than the effort of opening it up.
  • European SME's grow 15% faster when they have access to open geographic data, compared to when they do not have that open and free access.
  • Spanish region Catalonia saw 4 years of work on opening up geo-data recovered in only 6 months.
  • Transport planners in the Philippines are using Open Data to make investment decisions in infrastructure planning and a citywide bus route restructuring program of Manila;
  • Health groups in India are using Open Data to connect patients with health facilities.
  • In UK, data on traffic accidents involving cyclists has led to a website that suggests the cyclists safer routes.

What I find impressive is not only that these are delivering results but that they are unlocking innovation and talent in these countries in using data to solve practical local problems that benefit local people.

The Secretary General recently established an Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development to advise him on how the UN system and other partners can catalyze the step-change that will be needed in data production, availability and analysis to track progress on the emerging Post-2015 development agenda. The Report recognises that

  • Data is the lifeblood of decision-making and the raw material for accountability. Timely and high-quality data is needed for designing, monitoring and evaluating effective policies for sustainable development that leave no-one behind.
  • This means making data available, building public trust in that data and expanding people’s ability to use it, so that their needs are at the heart of development processes.
  • There is tremendous potential in new technology; indeed, this is the forefront of the data revolution that particularly in the private sector is already happening.  Yet the cornerstone of improving data still rests with country-level official statistical institutions.
  • For the benefit of public policy, the data revolution will need to be supported by resources and strengthening of capacity and coordination, with UN agencies playing an active role.

The Open Data Days in Bishkek are bringing the public sector, civil society and business community together with experts from around the world to explore and find ways in which Open Data can be that lynchpin, strengthening the key policy efforts of the Kyrgyz Republic. By both providing a good strategic overview of how Open Data can be deployed as an extremely valuable instrument, and by determining tangible starting points for action, the Open Data Days will be a great impulse for the implementation of the newly adopted e-governance policy with wider impact.

UNDP walks the talk. We have one of the most progressive information disclosure policies; recently UNDP was ranked at number one in the Aid Transparency Index among 68 international organisations; and UNDP uploads all it audit reports, evaluation reports through a public website open.undp.org. We are looking forward to collaborate with the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic and World Bank team on the Open Data Readiness Assessment that we are launching today and future collaboration. This would make Kyrgyzstan a beacon for other countries in the region.

The possibilities are huge. Let us seize them.

Thank you and wish you fruitful discussion!

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