UN Resident Coordinator for Trinidad and Tobago, Marina Walter,
chairs the opening session of the 2020 Big Data Forum.
Photo: © JCD & Associates
Trinidad and Tobago is well-poised to be the home for a Centre of Excellence on Big Data Analytics, but deepening trust between the private sector and government is pivotal to making this idea a reality.
UN Resident Coordinator to T&T, Marina Walter, is a strong believer in the island state’s potential for driving the regional push to harness the power of Big Data, as she told fellow resident coordinators at a virtual UN forum on using non-conventional data for reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
But she said public/private sector partnerships must be strong for T&T to make strides in Big Data Analytics.
“We need to create an enabling environment by working on this issue of trust,” she said. “The fact that private sector and government don’t not always see eye to eye, or in fact sometimes use different language, is something that needs to change at the bottom, because the IT solutions won’t come from government - they will come from the private sector so they need to be at the same table.”
Walter said there is already an opportune starting point: many stakeholders agree that there are significant gaps in the collection, availability and effective use of alternative data.
To bridge the gaps in collaboration, the UN country team in T&T hosted the inaugural Big Data Forum in 2020. The event brought private sector players and government stakeholders into a shared space to discuss opportunities in Big Data.
The UN team has also built a relationship with the Central Statistical Office (CSO) to support government in making more effective use of data in the public sector.
“We moved into an assessment of the local data ecosystem,” Walter recalled. “You agree on what the challenges are and outlining them so that the UN country team can work with the CSO on the sort of interventions we can jointly implement in a 3 to 5 year period to build this modern technology-drive and innovative data system.”
This partnership with the CSO saw new baselines and indicators identified for creating a richer data pool that will track the country’s progress on the SDGs.
Academic institutions such as the University of the West Indies are also supporting businesses to make better use of Big Data Analytics.
These initiatives, along with new statistics legislation which the government is pursuing, could help the public sector tap into new and innovative data sources and other data generated outside of the official statistical system. With this information incorporated into mainstream statistics, the national Big Data pool will be richer and more effective in shaping policy decisions.
The UN is committed to working with all partners to help T&T optimise its potential to be a Big Data leader in the region.