One may ask, "what do Opendata and Codesprints have to do with the work of the Edward Seaga Research Institute at the UWI?" As it turns out quite a lot, as we discovered much to our pleasant surprise recently, when we had occasion to interview the Most Hon Edward Seaga, Former Prime Minister of Jamaica, and Distinguished Fellow at the UWI, about the work being spearheaded in the compilation of the Edward Seaga Database Collection - an electronic catalog of statistics and indicators relating to Jamaica's macro-economic performance over the past 50+ years that is being released as an Open Data resource.
In this interview, Mr. Seaga speaks about the scope ancd motivation for undertaking this important research initiative.
Mr. Seaga was also one of the featured presenters at the recent Slashroots|Caribbean Opendata conference, where he spoke about the genesis of this important initiative He told his audience that since his retirement from political life in 2005, one of his projects was the writing of his autobiography. During that time, he said, he had found it necessary to compile a variety of data related to Education, the Environment, Tourism, Health and the Population, which he believed would be of great use to Government, “Think Tanks”, Researchers and Academics in unraveling some of the anomalies that currently exist. He cited a few examples such as: periods of low growth rate together with high employment; low growth rate vs high capital formation; and high capital formation and high unemployment.
One of the greatest challenges, he said, was that of the GDP, as one set of data may be linked by a base year of 1956, and yet another to 1974. Much work, he said must be done to establish appropriate linkages in this respect.
“I have a dream”, Mr. Seaga quipped, to the amusement of the conference audience, and then wryly continued; -that every country in the Region, will compile a similar database, so that we in Jamaica would be able to make comparisons, with other Caribbean countries, rather than with the USA, as is currently done. There is a need, he said for the rest of the Region to begin a similar compilation of data, going back to the 1950s, “so that we can talk the same language to each other and begin to understand each other better!” he said.