I’ve come to realize I’m an Open Data enthusiast. Like most people, I tend to have questions about how things run, where resources are located and how they get distributed.
This year, that curiosity led me to seek out information about some government agencies in Trinidad & Tobago. The Water and Sewerage Authority, the Public Transport Service Corporation, the Ministry of Health and the Trinidad & Tobago Police Service were institutions I had targeted. They all provide data in one form or another about things I was interested in. However, that data came in the form of PDFs, Word documents, embedded in Google maps or even one-by-one on wen pages. Decidedly not open. For all those sources, a lot of massage therapy was required. My fingers included. And then, last week, The Trinidad & Tobago Extractive Industries Transparency Institute released their first report about Trinidad and Tobago’s Energy Industry. It was chock full of information on the players in this space, the revenues gained and production stats. It was also a PDF. They took the next step though and through the efforts of the bright path foundation actually created Open Data sources of key information within the report. But they didn’t stop there, the TTEITI went ahead and just one week after releasing the data, they held an Open Data conference and workshop. Speakers included Mark Regis from the TTEITI, Bevil Wooding from BrightPath, Patrick Hosein from Nic.tt, Dr. Kim Mallalieu from the UWI, Gerard Best from the Guardian and yours truly. For the actual workshop session, I moderated the development of an app focused on using one of the core datasets – the differences between Government’s expected receipts and Companies’ reported payments. That session was a mix of engineers, data analysts and journalists. It included Nigel Henry of Solution By Simulation, Ria Jack from NIHERST, Anil Ramnanan from TTCS, Kyle De Freitas from the DCIT of UWI, Tori-Ann Haywood from the TTCSI and Kerry Peters, former president of MATT. Though the time was short, we were able to get to an alpha version of the app. We’re looking forward to release it sometime soon. This was the first time an actual agency in government presented its data in an open format and invited developers to come out and write apps on it. The app that resulted from the process allowed us to even think about the data differently and ask questions that we may not have asked. It was a very good day and I’m glad we were able to be part of what I hope to be the first of many such initiatives. Edit: