Type to search

Biz Views

Op-Ed: A strategic issue we are knowingly neglecting…Data

Irrespective of political ideology, anyone who has dealt with the Puerto Rican bureaucracy knows that information, data, facts, and figures are conveniently veiled for reasons that range from “saving face” political convenience to blatant incompetence and negligence.  

The Hurricane Maria death toll study is probably the most well-known example of such an occurrence, revealing that the public did not trust the official information on the disaster. The disgraceful politicization of the Statistics Institute resulted in a watered-down version. This institution remains somewhat absent from the public discourse and policymaking. And who can forget the back and forth about the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020 added further uncertainty to our damaged economy.  

In essence, the overall governmental effort in collecting, aggregating, and generating data and its reliability is constantly questioned by experts and pundits.  

The maintenance and upkeep of historical records, libraries, and collections remain dead last in our priorities list. Yet, take a look at the potential disappearance of the Puerto Rico National Archive and Library over Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico-imposed budget cuts.  

As we get closer to the 2022 hurricane season, it should not surprise us that flood planning in Puerto Rico is based on outdated data, according to a study reported in 2021. God help us!!!

The importance of data in this 21st century cannot be ignored or neglected. Today’s interconnected world has become a strategic issue in which innovation, growth, and development is anchored. If you want an explanation of what data is how much it is produced and stored globally, check this piece

In an essay published in Foreign Affairs, Matthew J. Slaughter and David H. McCormick assert that:

“As an increasingly necessary input for innovation, a rapidly expanding element of international trade, a vital ingredient in corporate success, and an important dimension of national security, data offers incredible advantages to all who hold it. It is also readily abused. Countries and companies that seek anticompetitive advantages try to control data. So do those that wish to undermine liberty and privacy.”

Author Gloria Fernández- Estébanez is the president of The Consulting Lead Inc., a San Juan based certified Woman Owned Small Business. She is a Certified Research Administrator with more than 20 years of experience in grant management of sponsored programs in research administration.

While the above-referenced article argues the need for the US to bring about a regulatory framework to govern the ever-growing global creation and flows of data, my position is that in Puerto Rico, we are avoiding the production, collection, and analysis of data by utter negligence. Or, as it happens, this is a closely regarded secret that few know. However, we don’t have an Official Secrets Act like the United Kingdom or a classification system like the federal government under Presidential Executive Order 13526

The adoption of technological advancements in critical areas of public administration should have resolved our need for essential data elements that could enhance the identification of fundamental problems and, above all inform policy. But unfortunately, irrespective of administration, our government is laggard in adopting technology systems that should facilitate the collection and, consequently, the proper analysis of data.   

And I am not alone in this assessment. Even the experts who do this day in and day out state that data is not a priority when making decisions in Puerto Rico. It is a “de la manga productions” effort. 

Both business and the public sector must address these inevitable changes towards a truly digital economy. Not only do we need to improve and make accessible digital infrastructure, but we must also address improving the collective data science literacy, which can be defined as “a functional proficiency in the identification, interpretation, and communication of meaningful data and datasets.”

At least we can start by fostering an awareness level digital literacy to all workers in our economy. 

Our future is intimately tied to prioritizing data as a critical element in making evidence-based decisions that can improve our future.  

Author Details
Author Details
This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *