Data needs to be translated to alleviate burden on Pacific island policymakers

The intense focus on data technology, data sharing and data science in the Pacific islands as of late has promised a myriad of benefits for island Governments through evidence based decision making and policies.

Data is good, we agree. It captures past, current and can assist in ways to influence future trends on key development issues. We need data to know how we did, how we are doing and how we can do better. But data, is neither simple nor straight forward, especially when it comes to the Pacific islands. It is complex, fraught with challenges related to technical capacity, storage capabilities, access limitations and political willpower to actually use data when presented.

The recent launch of the Pacific Data Hub by the The Pacific Community (SPC) has certainly added a wealth of information to the data landscape of the Pacific islands with various datasets reflecting recent trends in a variety of sectors. The Inform Project by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and UNEP which works with 14 Pacific island countries to empower them to collate and utilize their national environmental data for decision making has gained traction at the regional level.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) process has also increased the data capacity of Pacific islands through regional and national efforts to churn the numbers to inform the complex indicators developed to track SDG progress.

At the national level, through the SDG process and various other development projects, island states are encouraged to mainstream their data in their respective development strategies for a better picture of progress and tracking at the global level.

But these data focused initiatives, although noble in intent needs to do more than thrust numbers, statistics and models towards the overworked public servant, Pacific leader or project workers in the Pacific islands. It needs to translate the data into ways policymakers can understand and therefore utilize. The data needs to be presented in a way that a public servant who is working on submitting a national report can locate it, convert it to usable information and integrate it in a meaningful way.

So, the influx of data for the Pacific has been extraordinary as of late, but to truly make the most of the information so that those who need it the most can use it, more effort needs to go into ensuring that the barriers to effective use of data are addressed along the way.

Efforts such as the State of Environment Report (SOE) by SPREP is a good start both at the regional and country level. The recently released regional SOE report also confirms areas of concern that require action, including marine pollution, invasive species, and protection of key biodiversity areas and species. SPCs highlighted statistics through their social media channels is also a good approach so far. It’s a start, but there needs to be more to truly make data meaningful for the Pacific at the policy level.

Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson
Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson

Editor, Pacific Environment Weekly

Data Sources in the Pacific

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