Open Data Portal Provides Gateway for Energy Sector Disclosure  

By Gabrielle Rawlins

CSO Liaison and Communications Officer

Knowledge is power. This adage is one that resonates globally, especially with the ease with which we have access to data and information. Due to the explosion of the internet, information on a range of topics can be easily accessed. Knowledge on a topic can be gleaned by the click of a button or a Siri request. Through the Open Government Partnership, Governments are also encouraged to standardize data and grant citizens more access to information on everything from oil and gas production to job losses. This global movement towards open disclosure strengthens transparency and accountability in a country and is linked to the work of the Trinidad and Tobago Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (TTEITI).

Earlier this year, the TTEITI Steering Committee launched its open data hub. And, for the first time citizens could find out the tax payments individual oil and gas companies make to the Government on a disaggregated basis. If for instance, you wanted to know how much BHP Billiton paid to Government in Green Fund levy or how much bpTT paid in royalties, you could browse the portal and have access to this data within minutes if not seconds. While these are just examples of the data available, there are many benefits and efficiency gains from transitioning to more open data disclosures. In fact,  open data could be used as a measurement of development and transparency for countries. The Natural Resource Governance Institute recently launched their Resource Governance Index in which Trinidad and Tobago was one of the countries where governance of the extractive industry was assessed. This Index is an international benchmarking standard which measures how countries govern their resources by focusing on: revenue management, value realization and enabling the environment. The index report credits Trinidad and Tobago for satisfactory results in enabling the environment and value realization components but it achieves weak scores in the revenue management component. Trinidad and Tobago scored 64 out of 100 points in the 2017 Resource Governance Index and ranked 14th out of the 89 assessments undertaken for the 81 countries surveyed. One of the categories included in this assessment was the enabling environment where Global Open Data Index, Open Data Barometers and Open Data Inventories were analyzed. Trinidad and Tobago scored poorly in this area.

The TTEITI is doing its part to address this issue and our Open Data Policy encourages an increase in transparency and public awareness on natural resource revenue for sustainable, effective development projects. Through this data portal individuals are allowed access to information included in the appendices of the EITI Reports for their use at no cost. The TTEITI focuses on the revenues of oil, gas and mining companies and their payments to government. Most important, this information provided through the portal can be accessed, modified, shared and understood. The information provided on the website could be used to drive policy change, give a platform for independent analysis on government policy and even to help researchers country get an idea of specific indicators. Should we be afraid of Open data? No, open data is just another part of the fast pace world we live in, it is also something we use every day whether we realize it or not.

 What is Open Data and How Does it Help Us?

According to the Open Data Handbook, open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone- subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share alike. How does it work? In a nutshell Open Data is at the core of many of the social media platforms one uses. For instance; Instagram a well-known photo-sharing platform, information that has been willingly shared by you, the user is gathered and in some cases re-used for other purposes. To make the comparison easier, one of the most used Open Data platforms used is Google Maps or Google Earth or even the readily popular Waze where real-time traffic updates and police blockades are obtained at the touch of a button. We have been using some of these platforms without having knowledge of what they really are. The millennial generation we live among would never know the hassles of searching for information prior to the age of the internet. Combing through stacks of library cards, outdated encyclopedias and out of date journal articles. Just as the internet has provided us Sparknotes and synopsis of books which has eliminated the need to read mountains of full length books. Governments and companies are joining the new wave of transparency in providing data that could be easily used and reused and built on in ways to meet the needs of individuals. This is at the crux of open data. And, open data has provided an opportunity to meet the needs of individuals, as an indicator of development and transparency for countries and has been fueled by ease of access of technology.

Thursday 3rd August
Business Guardian