Bahamas Government Must Harness the Power of Data to Fulfil the Country’s National Development Goals

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Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. K. Peter Turnquest brought opening remarks on ‘The Power of Data for Transforming National Development’ at a forum held by the Ministry of Finance in conjunction with the Inter-American Development Bank at Baha Mar, Thursday, October 10, 2019. (BIS Photos/Kemuel Stubbs)

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. K. Peter Turnquest explained that The Bahamas now exists in the Information Age where the fulfilment of the country’s national development goals requires that the government harness the power of data.

“We cannot overstate the need for this to be adequately prioritized and resourced for all governments who wish to achieve success in this day and age,” DPM Turnquest explained at a forum held by the Ministry of Finance in conjunction with the Inter-American Development Bank at Baha Mar Resort, Thursday, October 10, 2019.  The forum was held under the theme, ‘The Power of Data for Transforming National Development.’ He noted that data for development cannot just be a buzz word for developing countries.

“For the Bahamas, I am pleased to say, data driven growth is a strategic priority for the government, and we are implementing a change process that will systematically allow us to transform our capacity to produce, transform and analyze data with high-quality standards, protecting privacy and confidentiality for policy making, monitoring and accountability. “It is not enough to simply collect more data. The task at hand is to produce accurate, timely & disaggregated data that are relevant for achieving our development goals.”

The DPM stated that the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (PMDU) was set up as a vehicle to give life to the government’s data for development plan. He said their operation was designed to demonstrate the value of data driven growth strategies and the methodology has already borne fruit, particularly with the Unit’s early work with the Ministry of Finance and the private sector collaborating on a project to achieve ease of doing business improvements around the business licensing process. DPM Turnquest noted that by tracking data around the time associated with delivering business license renewals and new business registrations, the government is able to set specific targets to reduce the delivery time and adopt new policies to achieve those targets.

“Earlier this year, the Department of Inland Revenue (DIR) reduced the time to deliver business license renewals from over 30 days to fewer than 48 hours. To improve the speed of starting a new business, DIR also created a new category of licensing for low-risk businesses to register.” He explained that data drove this process, allowing the Ministry to objectively and transparently assess performance, track progress, and ultimately improve its service delivery to the benefit of the public.

The DPM noted that another example of the priority the government places on data is the reform of the Department of Information Technology, which is now the Department of Transformation and Digitization. “The change here is not just in the name. The mandate of the Department has expanded, encapsulating the government’s strategic shift to focus on data for development. The transformed Department now orients its information services around the goal of improving the government’s service delivery (through public officers), and improving the accessibility of government services (through ease of doing business).”

He added, “This is significant because DTD is not only providing technology to digitize old processes and change out legacy platforms; it is also driving the process of revamping and streamlining old systems. It makes no sense to simply digitize a 10-step process when that process could and should be 3-steps in the first place. It is a subtle but important shift in focus that is needed to deliver digital transformation in government.”

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