5 areas of Caribbean society that need more Open Data

A reader asked me, "Hey Gerard. What are 5 interesting topics happening in Trinidad today that I can apply open data to?" I came up with the Environment, Technology, Education, the Economy and Politics. So how could Open Data change environmental management, technology development, public education, economic and political reporting in the Caribbean?

Environment. There's an annual International Coastal Cleanup in September, coordinated by CNIRD, who sort and measure the garbage collected from beaches around the region and around the world yearly. That's valuable data!

Technology. Does anyone actually know how many mobile phones are activated in the Caribbean, how many of them are smart phones and how the market is split among competing mobile service providers? Liberating that kind of data would allow entrepreneurial third-party service providers and hardware suppliers to make informed decisions and to strategically innovate in the regional market.

Education. CSEC and CAPE results are out this week and are now available online. Every year, Education Ministers across the region make statements about the success of their respective public education programmes and the "improved" performance of their students. But a lack of open public education data leaves the average citizens with no basis for comparison or verification of these statements. Instead, we're forced to rely on the trustworthiness of official sources. Liberating public education data would make our region's democracies stronger by empowering citizens to hold elected Government ministers more accountable.

Economy. September 9 is Budget Day in Trinidad and Tobago. As a mainstream media practitioner myself, I would love for this to be the year when newsrooms develop a more data-driven approach to budget reporting, using animated interactives, online infographics and other visualisations to translate large, complex public service documents into digestible, meaningful stories with more relevance to various public stakeholders.

Politics. It is election season in Trinidad and Tobago. With the Tobago House of Assembly elections and the Chaguanas West by-election in the rear view mirror, the voting-age public is now anticipating Local Government and then General Elections. Now is the time for the country's Elections and Boundaries Commission to migrate its public communications to a digital, online platform so that citizens can be more easily informed of the ins-and-outs of the voting process.

I'm sure there are lots of other areas that I didn't mention and probably haven't thought about. Please share your ideas below.


Just one quick note. While I was cranking out this blog post, Trinidad and Tobago's murder toll went up twice! There have now been 4 murders in Port-of-Spain, one in Maloney and two alleged carjackers shot by police in Caparo. Crime detection is certainly another area that could benefit from a data-driven, scientific, evidence-based approach.