Five Pilot Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) have presented inventories of datasets aligned with various key SDGs held by their ministries at a one-day result-sharing conference organised by The Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC) with support from the World Bank on Thursday 28th January 2021 at the Family Kingdom Resort in Freetown.
The ceremony brought together over eighty MDAs and Non State Actors (NSAs), including the media, under one roof as participants from the Ministries of Water Resources, Basic and Secondary Education, Health and Sanitation, the Environment, and Gender and Children’s Affairs, who participated in two focus groups facilitated by Consultant Dr Bah at the RAIC headquarters in Freetown on January 13 and 18 2021 show-cased their dataset inventories, including those that form part of their proactive disclosure of information.
Welcoming Participants, Chairman and Information Commissioner of RAIC, Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw said this phase of the project is important as the outcomes will be replicated in other MDAs. He highlighted the gaps in aligning data on the Open Data Portal with data associated with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and expressed hope that one of the recommendations that would come out of this results-sharing engagement would be how to make open data sharing more user-friendly, especially in promoting the SDGs. He also said there is need for data on the Open Data Portal to be interoperable with data uploaded on Information Management Systems located in some MDAs. He said the choice of the five pilot MDAs by the RAIC and the Project Consultant was informed by the fact that their data sets are among those aligned with most the important SDGs, for example: No Poverty, zero hunger, quality education, health and wellbeing, gender equality, and clean water and sanitation. “The strides that the RAIC has made in its flagship proactive Disclosure of information programme have made it to gain momentum in the country and I hope that the outcome of the conference will ease the work of the commission and encourage prompt compliance amongst the MDA with their obligations in the RAI Act 2013”, Dr Shaw added.
Acting Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Food Security, Dr. Abu Bakarr Karim said since “knowledge shared is power shared”, his ministry has laid premium on datasets that are developmentally oriented. He thanked the RAIC for selecting his ministry as one of the pilot MDAs in this project. His ministry, he added, holds market data, farm based data among others, which are key to the development of Sierra Leone moving forward.
John Ansumana, who represented the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education (MBSSE), who was unavoidably absent, described the partnership between RAIC and MBSSE as cordial and relevant. He said his ministry is data sensitive and has used data for the number of schools, funding, feeding and retention of pupils to promote the government’s free quality education drive. He said now that the Ministry has a minister who is ‘data inquisitive’ the results have been immense.
Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), Director of Information, Emmanuel Turay, pledged the ministry’s continued support to the work of RAIC noting that MIC is working on the Records Management policy which is key to data management and is therefore happy to report that the bill is now in parliament hoping to be enacted to boost the work of the Commission.
Other speakers from the PFMICP in the Ministry of Finance, StatsSL, and Ministry of Water Resources all praised the strides of RAIC in ensuring that data accessibility is made simple.
Consultant Dr. Umaru Bah held an interactive session with the representatives of MDAs and NSAs following the presentations of results of their data inventories by representatives of the five pilot MDAS who participated in two focus groups facilitated by Consultant Dr Bah at the RAIC headquarters in Freetown on January 13 and 18 on whether the data they hold is complete, relevant, accessible, customer/user friendly, timely etc. and the answers of such discussion will be collated and factored into the consultancy report and recommendations.