In celebration of the World Statistics Day promoted by the UN the 20 October 2015
We are currently amidst the age of the data revolution —past the industrial revolution and the ICT revolution. Human activity within society, alongside Public Administration and private organisations, generates large amounts of data, which will be the source of wealth of the 21st century, just as oil was in the 20th century or steam in the 19th.
The intention behind this Manifesto is to make public administrations and society at large aware that an adequate use of data can create a broad range of opportunities at different levels of the social and economic domains of our country.
At the same time, societies that are not capable of harnessing these opportunities will be left behind insofar as transforming their social and economic reality and providing their citizens with better living conditions and possibilities of personal and collective development.
The data use in the sense that we defend within this Manifesto must be done from a standpoint of respect towards the privacy and confidentiality of personal information: wherever possible, anonymous data should always be used, and whenever it is pertinent to use individual data, research projects must be carried out in accordance with all the ethical, legal and technological guarantees necessary.
Transparency in political decisions and accountability in the management of public assets are an essential demand on the part of citizens, who want to be able to trust those managing collective resources.
Transparency begins with the availability of data on political initiatives and their results. If said data is available, citizens, social movements, researchers and all parties interested will have the information they need in order to form an opinion and democratically influence the management of public assets. Accountability entails transparent decision-making processes visible, alongside the methods applied, the participants and the results obtained. Improving transparency has an impact on the wellbeing of the population, as it fosters better policies (effective and efficient public investment, qualified human resources, independent regulators).
In the public sector, having data on the Administration guarantees transparency, efficiency and equal opportunities. Transparency because data originating directly from official sources can be accessed and processed; efficiency because citizens and organisations can create services beyond the Administration's capabilities; equal opportunities because data access is the same for all parties interested, regardless of where and when.
Access to information essentially empowers citizens and allows individuals and collectives to make better decisions and play a more active role in society. The implications in personal and family domains are clear in terms of education, use of healthcare services, participation in the job market, etc.; yet there are also instances of improved social and community cohesion attained thanks to greater citizen participation via the use of data available at the time.
Managing information requires the Administration to develop a strategic approach and support policies for generating, sharing and using information. It is the Administration's responsibility to guarantee the proper use of information —within current limitations, which are established by a number of regulations— and inspire trust among citizens. Therefore, the Administration is accountable for all the data it gathers, how it is stored and protected, which uses it is given and how it is used to improve public policies.
It is also the Administration's responsibility to promote knowledge on the use and interpretation of data, while encouraging its use.
It is vital to re-use available data when making decisions, planning and implementing public policies, and particularly, when assessing their effects.
Public statistics must be at the heart of political debates. Analysing —by using available data— what worked and why it worked is essential, especially in times when resources are scarce.
Many different public services can be improved if the data held by public administrations is used wisely. Everyone will agree with using data people's privacy is respected and guaranteed. It is important to provide the assurance that when working with data, it cannot be linked to the person(s) it corresponds to.
Making said data available to researchers belonging to accredited research institutions could also be very useful in terms of improving public services and policies. Providing researchers with data that reflects the complexity of our society, family structures, education and its outcome, the job market, unemployment and economic and social activity —instances of both success and failure—, will enable them to find out which services or policies work, and which ones don't.
Thus, data contributes to creating a culture of public policy evaluation. Analysing data from every field (healthcare, education, work, economy) and linking the different sources available makes it possible to discover the effectiveness and efficiency of the policies being carried out, which is enormously useful in terms of planning. Moreover, linking data from different fields (such as education and social services, healthcare and education, training and work, economy and industry, etc.) makes it possible to assess the many effects that public policies have on society.
For data use to be carried out successfully, it is also important for the people in charge of political decisions and public management to have a basic grasp of statistics and the interpretation of data. This would ensure that the decisions being taken are informed and in the best interest of the country's citizens.
The increase in the amount of data available, its quality, the accessibility provided by digital formats, and the inter-linking of different databases are all factors that contribute to opening up a vast number of possibilities. Thus, the information being gathered gives way to new ways of generating knowledge, particularly when multiple data sources can be contrasted (genetic, environmental, financial, regional, etc.). Therefore, information becomes a very valuable asset for the Administration —insofar as planning and evaluating services and policies—, as well as for third parties and for the field of research in particular, where fostering open data is especially useful.
The development of a business structure around the design of apps for smartphones and social networks is the most direct application of open data. In fact, the European Commission considers that the Administration's data should be re-usable, as in addition to transparency, said sharing of data also invigorates the development of the information society—the field of digital content and services in particular.
Data availability also makes it possible to generate value via research. Making the Administration's data available to research centres signifies a quantitative and qualitative leap in the field of research in Catalonia; it makes research much more effective and efficient, which has an effect on citizens' wellbeing. As well as developing its own research, Catalonia could attract professionals and capital alike, thus generating a clear competitive advantage and fostering the transition from research to the transfer of knowledge and corporate growth.
It could stimulate the creation of a corporate fabric based on academic knowledge, which employed highly-specialised resources and new professional profiles; a business community able to recruit and retain talent and resources, which could ultimately result in invaluable potential for international leadership.
A strategic focus of this sort would enable involvement on the part of the Administration, of universities and research centres, businesses and civil society and generate jobs, training, social cohesion, innovation, knowledge and corporate momentum. For society, the payback of such an initiative would come in the form of better public policies, economic growth and social and cultural evolution.
Barcelona, 20 October 2015
Date: Tuesday 20 October 2015 Time: 18.30 pm
Venue: CERC Auditorium (Pati Manning). Montalegre, 7. 08001 Barcelona