Pacific Islands Discuss Open Data For Environment Information

Group photo of participants during the discussions. (image by SPREP)

by LEANNEM Environmental Monitoring and Governance

(SPREP) Apia, Samoa – Reporting to national development targets and to regional and global environment conventions rely on the availability of good data and information on the current state of the environment. Data is essential for these processes and an open data platform will help decision-makers access the information they want to develop effective policy planning and development processes. 

Environment colleagues from Papua New Guinea and Samoa participated in a South-South knowledge exchange on managing environment data. Discussions focussed on open data and how each country manages and uses environmental data.  The South-South Exchange took place at SPREP from 1-5 April 2019.

Papua New Guinea is leading the charge in developing an environmental data sharing policy encouraging the free exchange of environmental data amongst government agencies. 

In the Pacific, environment data is often dispersed and stored on personal computers and lack a centralised repository for storage and retrieval. This lack of access to available data is a major challenge for environmental monitoring and reporting in the Pacific region.

The GEF-Inform project is establishing on-line national environmental portals in 14 Pacific island countries and territories as a central repository for storing and sharing environmental data.  
PNG’s Conservation and Environmental Protection Agency (CEPA) manages the national environmental portal and, with the technical support of the Inform project, have built capacity in data management. As of the beginning of April 2019, the PNG portal has 172 datasets, 4 dashboards, 2 data stories, and 17 groups.  

Mr. Biatus Bito, the PNG’s National Inform Project  Coordinator shared their experiences with managing the national portal and with open data at CEPA. He emphasised data ownership and linking to various stakeholders as very important to improve data sharing for monitoring and reporting.  

“Data is often kept by individuals on their computer systems and sometimes is lost. Keeping data in a centralised database and having a control over it is of real value. Data is important for planning and reporting purposes and capacity is needed to manage data. Technical capacity training and strengthening partnerships and interactions with donors on open data systems is encouraged. “

Mr. Richard Balone, CEPA ICT Manager stated PNG is addressing the data sharing challenges at different levels. CEPA has started the process and will be launching the Data Sharing Policy at the end of April. 

“The data sharing policy will encourage sharing of data within CEPA, between key government agencies and to other stakeholders. We have established working committee to collate data and encourage the use of the national data portal,” he said.

Ms. Fiapaipai Sakuma of the IT Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Samoa (MNRE), said data sharing is an on-going challenge in some of the Pacific Islands.

She said their IT Division is being pro-active in sharing data within the ministry and to other sectors using the MNRE website and Data Knowledge Information System (DKIF) portal. MNRE have established their DKIF to help with data storage and managing and sharing environmental data. 

“The Sector-Wide approach is an approach that is currently helping us to address the issue of data sharing amongst government agencies and private sector in Samoa,”Ms Sakuma said. 

She was joined by Mr. Sam Paniani and Mr. Iosua Satomai in the knowledge exchange. 

The SPREP regional Inform project has helped established 14 national portals and supported with technical capacity training for its members. There is also a regional environment portal which hosts data from the region, SPREP and key development partners to allow for easy access to public information.  The main objective of the country and regional data portals is to increase the information available to decision makers and assist with Multilateral Environmental Agreement reporting as well as tracking Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).   

The development of the State of Environment (SoE) report and National Environmental Management Strategy (NEMS) rely on availability and access to data, and the national environmental data portal is the storehouse for data and information.  The SoE reports and data on the portal inform SDGs related to the environment sector like solid waste, protected areas and CO2 emissions, SDGs 11.6, 14.5, 15.2 and 13

Several Pacific island countries are now in the various stages of developing and completing their State of Environment (SoE) reports, and the national data portal populated with datasets can facilitate the development of this document.

The Inform project will complement and strengthen the development of the State of Environment (SoE) Report and the National Environmental Management Strategy (NEMS). Development of these documents rely on easy access to a store house of information on the environment.

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