Botswana has become the first member country to implement the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) enhanced General Data Dissemination System (eDDS) that is aimed at making information easily accessible in both human and machine-readable formats.
At the request of the local authorities, a mission from the IMF’s statistics department visited Gaborone last week to assist with the implementation of the e-GDDS.
The mission helped redevelop the National Summary Data Page (NSDP), currently on the Bank of Botswana (BoB) website, utilising the open data platform.
The NSDP will serve as a one-stop publication vehicle for essential macroeconomic data making Botswana the first IMF member country to implement the recommendations of the e-GDDS.
In a statement, the IMF said publication of essential macroeconomic data through the new NSDP will provide national policy makers, a broad range of domestic and international stakeholders, including investors and rating agencies with easy access to information that has been identified as critical for monitoring economic conditions and policies.
“Making this information easily accessible in both human and machine readable formats will allow all users to have simultaneous access to timely data released on a disciplined dissemination schedule based on an Advance Release Calendar (ARC), which will bring greater data transparency, which will also be developed,” said the IMF.
The new national summary data page will give users access to full information about the e-GDDS data categories by end of January 2016.
The IMF’s executive board established the e-GDDS in May 2015 to support improved data transparency, encourage statistical development and help create synergies between data dissemination and surveillance. The e-GDDS superseded the GDDS, which had been established in 1997.
Describing it as a false economy, analysts have in the past decried the delays in publishing or absence of key public data; a trend that they said had long-term economic and social costs.
The 2015 Open Data Barometer (ODB) global report says Botswana has been lumped into a cluster of ‘capacity constrained’ countries that are facing challenges in establishing sustainable open data initiatives as a result of limited government or civil society capacity.
Open data refers to data that is proactively published, and made available without charge, in readable file formats and without restrictions on use.
While there is a willingness to make government data available in Botswana, observers say in practice, availability is constrained by lack of resources, as Statistics Botswana is under-resourced in relation to what is required.
Currently only the data published by the BoB qualifies as truly ‘open’ data, as it is generally published quickly, and is in excel format.
“Apart from BoB, I think there is insufficient appreciation of the need for high quality, timely, open data. It is a false economy to provide insufficient resources for statistical surveys, data compilation, analysis and publication, as it results in poorer quality policy decisions that have long-term economic and social costs,”
“There are also real problems with the quality of some of the key economic and social data. Furthermore, there are major gaps in the coverage of the GDP data, and data on information on education, health is despairingly inadequate and out of date,” Econsult managing director, Keith Jefferis told Mmegi Business in an earlier interview.