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Providing access to government data

The increasing acceptance of evidence-based policy-making is partly the result of technological developments that allow decision-makers to capture and manage unprecedented levels of information. If during the seventies the growing use of statistics fostered a silent revolution in the way that policies were designed and implemented, the rise and spread of information technologies and the recent irruption of big data now provide governments with a level of precision and granularity in the collection of evidence that a couple of decades ago was simply unthinkable. These increased capacities do not only allow policy-makers to better assess the final impact of government programmes; they also make it possible to deploy real-time monitoring techniques and to introduce corrective measures whenever necessary. On the other hand, they grant the incumbent officials with a level of knowledge about the nitty-gritty aspects of policy implementation that places them well above other stakeholders that do not hold such a privileged vantage point.
This is what makes transparency and open data so important for democracy. It’s not only a matter of accountability and citizen control over their own records, but also a key challenge when it comes to informing decision-making. Datasets can be objective, but their interpretation and prioritisation are subjective and ultimately political choices that cannot be left only to government officials. When it comes to policy dialogue, all relevant evidence needs to be openly shared so that every stakeholder can make use of it to shape, uphold or revise their own positions.
In some cases, the necessary evidence to inform policy dialogue may not even exist, as was the case with the information on the labour conditions of domestic workers in Cabo Verde. Realising that the INE (National Institute of Statistics) didn’t collect any information in that regard, ACLCVBG – the INSPIRED Dialogue Host– designed and launched an ad hoc survey covering those aspects that were considered most relevant by the group of stakeholders engaged in the policy dialogue. The results of the survey not only served to provide the dialogue process with a solid evidence base to advocate for stronger regulation in the sector, but also set a precedent that was later on integrated into INE’s data collection process and therefore institutionalised the inclusion of informal domestic service as a full-fledged category of workers.