Anna García-Altés, Head of the Catalan Health System Observatory
The information generated through the contact between citizens and the administration is of great importance, ranging from registrations of birth to registrations in the education system; employment; transport; housing and utilities; the development of economic activities; tax payments; health system; the judiciary system, and even death certifications. This information is essential for the development of the responsibilities that are attributed to the Administration but becomes an invaluable asset for secondary uses.
The current economic situation has highlighted the ever present need to base public policy on assessments to ensure that its objectives are met and, therefore, that an efficient public resources allocation is performed. Data availability is the element that facilitates the evaluation culture implementation in the administration. Data analysis in each are provides information on the policy effectiveness and efficiency and tremendously improves planning.
There are some elements that come together in the current economic context such as the maturity of our society; the demand for greater transparency with regards to government decision-making and the accountability in the use of public resources. Moreover, the government has a democratic and ethical obligation to design better policy, this being a key element in the development of a country with a direct impact on the citizens’ welfare.
In the public sector, having access to the Administration Files –open data– ensures transparency, efficiency and equal opportunities: transparency so that one can view and deal with data that comes directly from the official sources; efficiency so that citizens and organizations can create services beyond what the Administration is able to, and equal opportunities to ensure that the access is the same for everyone concerned, at the same time and in the same place. Primarily, access to information empowers citizens, enabling them to take better decisions and assume a more active role in society.
The intelligent reuse of data, once made anonymous and completely depersonalized, can constitute a material that is extremely valuable for research and innovation. The biomedical research and health sciences are one of the areas with most available data. Its reutilization enables, under the guarantees of security, privacy and research ethics, different analyzes that can allow, to name just a few: examining the relationship between genotypes and different phenotypes; recently introduced in the market products’ (drugs or devices) monitoring and surveillance; detecting interactions and side effects that the detailing clinical trials have not yet revealed; examining the consequences of diagnostic tests’ false negatives and false positives and the potential damages of some; or measuring drugs’ comparative effectiveness.
Reusing and comparing multiple sources of information in the health system opens the door to a much more effective and efficient health research that ought to positively impact on citizens’ welfare. Obviously, this applies not only in the health area, but also it is in all areas of public policy intervention. It’s possible to encourage this way the creation of a business network, based on knowledge, with highly specialized resources and an ability to retain and attract talent and capital, with the involvement of the government, universities, research centres, businesses and civil society. The benefits for the society become effective in all the aspects: better public policies, economic growth, and social and cultural evolution.
It is said that the information, the data, will be the 21st century transforming element. Those societies, who will know how to capitalize on this asset, will be those ones with a quicker development and more capable of transforming the economic and social reality and, ultimately, improve the welfare of the citizenry.