On 19 April, Laurent Sarr, GVG’s Technical Director, took part in a peer exchange organized by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD). The purpose of the event was to discuss ways to foster trust in a public-private data-sharing context. The GPSDD’S mission is to ensure the availability and quality of data with a view to supporting the achievement of sustainable development goals. This involves obtaining privately-held data, which presents challenges due to a lack of trust in public institutions on the part of the private sector and the general public.
Building trust for successful data sharing
GVG has been a proud partner of the GPSDD since 2020. In the context of this partnership, GVG supports the GPSDD in gathering reliable and accurate data to build decision-making capabilities in Africa.
It is a high-level conference on effective public-private data sharing for evidence-based policymaking that motivated the organization of the peer exchange. Indeed, this conference, in which James Claude, our CEO, had participated in November last year, had highlighted the need to build the private sector’s and the general public’s trust in National Statistics Offices (NSOs). The peer exchange therefore aimed to leverage the participants’ insights to suggest strategies that could help NSOs achieve this objective.
During the event, the speakers – Dr. Barteld Braaksma, Innovation Manager, Statistics Netherlands; Federico Segui, Deputy Director General, INE Uruguay; Gianfranco Cecconi, Lead for Collaborative Data Ecosystems, Capgemini; and Lamin Dibba, Principal Statistician, Gambia Bureau of Statistics – shared their respective organization’s experience in strengthening trust to improve data sharing. At the end of the panel, the participants split into three breakout rooms to discuss answers to questions about the challenges around trust between the private and public sectors for public-private data sharing; the necessary steps to promote trust; and the lessons learned on building and maintaining trust in NSOs.
Lack of trust in data sharing: causes and impact
According to the discussion, common hurdles to establishing trust between the public and the private sectors when it comes to data sharing are a regulatory gap, data security concerns, a lack of clarity and understanding and a perceived lack of expertise as regards the NSOs.
In his breakout room intervention, Laurent explained that the telecom operators hesitated to share their data with public authorities out of a need to protect themselves and their agreements with their customers. Indeed, these agreements involve the operators’ responsibility in terms of data confidentiality. As a result, the operators need to know what the authorities plan to do with the subscribers’ data before making the latter available. In Laurent’s opinion, their concern stems from the absence of appropriate regulation.
The lack of understanding and the perceived lack of expertise may be the result of inadequate communication between the stakeholders. For instance, Lamin Dibba mentioned the lack of communication between the Gambia Bureau of Statistics and the private sector was one of the challenges his organization had encountered in obtaining privately held data. He went on to say that the Bureau did not “sell itself” very well with the private sector. To which Ali Omar, from Somalia, added that private institutions were reluctant to share data with the public sector due to a belief that public institutions are not up to standard and that systematic data sharing may result in data confidentiality being compromised.
Steps to improve and maintain trust in data sharing
Some of the key steps mentioned during this session were: implementing appropriate regulation, building the capacity and efficiency of public institutions, and improving the dialogue between the public and the private sectors.
According to our Technology Director, implementing a data protection framework as well as appropriate regulation specific to data sharing is essential. It would give the telecom operators peace of mind and encourage them to share their data with the public sector. This would be the government’s responsibility and would certainly go a long way in building trust, not only on the part of the operators but also on the part of the private sector and the general public alike.
As regards the capacity and skills of the NSOs and other public institutions, there may be a need for reinforcement in some cases, which could be met through the adoption of the relevant technology. For example, technology could help extract only what is needed from the privately held data, while leaving the rest in the hands of the data’s owners. However, in other cases, the lack of skill may only be a perceived one. An open dialogue between the stakeholders could then clear up the misunderstandings and misconceptions.
Furthermore, improved dialogue between the stakeholders would help find an approach to data sharing that enables a smooth, viable, and secure implementation. To maintain trust, it is essential to always put transparency first. This is precisely what GVG does, by providing access to all the market data necessary for public decision-makers to draft effective policies and make informed decisions.
Building and maintaining trust in NSOs: lessons learned
One of the key takeaways from the exchange was that opening a dialogue involving all stakeholders is essential to build trust. It will improve the general public’s and the private sector’s understanding of the use of data for statistical purposes. It will also facilitate the definition and implementation of an effective data-sharing approach that will benefit all the stakeholders. However, it was pointed out that even with effective communication, trust is likely to take time. Acknowledging that there is a gap in terms of trust and that something needs to be done is progress. Conversations like this one offer a platform to exchange ideas and it was agreed that they should keep on happening internationally.
From GVG’s perspective, and based on our experience, enabling effective data sharing between the private and public sectors is best achieved through public-private partnerships. Government authorities, NSOs in particular, are often the drivers of such partnerships. Indeed, they are motivated by the need to access and use data from the private sector for policymaking purposes. As a result, 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. Our own partnership with the GPSDD reflects an interest in strengthening data-sharing capacities for decision-making purposes, especially in Africa.
Want to read about data sharing for policymaking? Please click here.