For government policymakers, the data held by private sector organizations represent a precious source of information. Indeed, the data, which are sourced straight from the industry, provide them with insight into the different economic sectors. This insight can then be used to make appropriate decisions and create regulatory frameworks that will ensure the smooth functioning and good performance of the sectors concerned. However, the potential of a data-sharing collaboration between the public and private sectors remains untapped, for a variety of reasons.
Public-private partnerships for data sharing: benefits and challenges
Obtaining accurate and reliable data about a given economic sector is what governments need to better inform policymaking, and therefore improve sector performance as well as service delivery. This is best achieved through public-private partnerships. Government authorities, National Statistical Offices, in particular, are often the drivers of such partnerships, motivated by the need to access and use data from the private sector for policymaking purposes. As a result, a collaboration between the public and private sectors as regards data sharing is a topic of firm interest for governments, and the number of examples of such collaboration is on the increase.
These examples include the use of the data collected by mobile network operators (MNOs) in the form of Call Detail Records (CDRs), with a view to extracting mobility patterns during the Covid-19 pandemic. Governments are also mining data from the financial and tourist sectors to produce relevant statistics. However, despite these positive examples, the potential of public-private partnerships for data sharing remains to be fully realized. That is because the establishment of such partnerships is not without challenges. More specifically, they have implications in terms of technical know-how, capacity, and data scalability. They also require that all parties involved are satisfied with the terms of the partnership, especially when it comes to the security and confidentiality of the data.
Finding the way forward through a high-level conference
The need to realize this potential is what prompted the National Statistical Institute of Uruguay (INE) and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) to organize a high-level conference on “Effective Public-Private Data Sharing for Evidence-based Policymaking”. The conference took place on 22 and 23 November, both physically in Montevideo, Uruguay, and online. Its objective was, through various panels, to discuss the current situation as regards statistical offices’ and government agencies’ access to data held by private entities; to provide information regarding strategies to enable sustainable and secure data access through cooperation between the public and private sectors; to shed light on the legal and regulatory challenges, and to examine current examples of successful data sharing projects and highlight areas for improvement.
In addition to representatives of the INE and the GPSDD, the event gathered participants from statistical agencies of various countries, including Botswana, Columbia, Spain, Kenya, Ghana, and Finland. And of course, our CEO, James Claude, who was invited as an expert to the roundtable entitled Statistical Offices and Mobile Network Operators – Challenges and barriers for collaboration, on 22 November. GVG has a solid track record when it comes to supporting governments in leveraging data to enhance the decision-making process. Indeed, our innovative RegTech solutions enable the governments of emerging countries to collect data directly from the telecom and digital financial service sectors for various critical purposes, such as revenue assurance, regulation, and security. James’s co-panelists were Prof Samuel Kobina Annim, Government Statistician, Ghana Statistical Service; Federico Segui, Vice-Director General, National Statistical Institute of Uruguay; and Rolando Ocampo, Director of the Statistics Division, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Each speaker gave a presentation on the situation in their respective country regarding data sharing between MNOs, statistical institutes, and the government. After the presentations, the members of the audience were given time to informally share their experiences and insight. The panelists also answered a few additional key questions for the purpose of furthering the discussion around the barriers to collaboration, capacity building for the public sector, ways to secure the MNOs’ collaboration, and the ideal setup for an effective and mutually beneficial partnership for data sharing between the public sector and the MNOs.
Lessons learnt from the discussion
In his intervention, James contended that an appropriate regulatory framework should take into consideration the fact that MNOs have the duty to promote data access and transparency. According to him, regulation is the key to enabling secure access to third-party data for policymaking purposes. It can indeed facilitate collaboration between the MNOs and the public sector. Other challenges include setting up the right infrastructure to handle vast volumes of data; ensuring the quality of the data amid recurring changes on the MNOs’ networks; and implementing appropriate measures to ensure the confidentiality of the data. As the only speaker from a private company to take part in this specific panel, James brought to the discussion a unique and different point of view on the subject.
Overall, the discussion highlighted the fact that data is “the new gold” and that, as such, it should be at the top of governments’ priorities. Upon the conclusion of the conference, the participants were able to take home the following key requirements to successfully and securely mine this gold through partnerships between the public and private sectors: strict data protection rules; increased coordination and collaboration to foster trust between the entities of both sectors; an appropriate regulatory framework; technical infrastructure to assess the data, so that the latter does not get misused.
Even though data sharing initiatives between the public and private sectors are becoming more frequent, their level of success varies. Finding a framework that enables a smooth, viable, and secure implementation is crucial and requires further consultation and dialogue with the private sector. Events such as this high-level conference are an effective way to facilitate a discussion between the relevant actors of both sectors and create awareness around the requirements, on both sides, of a successful data-sharing project. It was a privilege for GVG, as a stakeholder of the private sector, to be invited to share its expertise and experience in supporting the public authorities’ capabilities when it comes to leveraging data from key economic sectors.
Want to read about GVG’s participation in another conference on data sharing? Click here.