Bahrain Data Portal (Bahrain's Open Data Initiative)
Central Informatics Organisation

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
The Government of Bahrain envisions, through its Vision 2030, a focus on forward-looking policies in areas of healthcare, education, security social justice, economy and finance. In support of the vision, Bahrain, a country of 1.381 million people, requires reliable and up to date data for its planning of the economy and Bahrain's important social needs. The same data will also be required by investors. Bahrain is currently ranked at 46 in Doing Business 2014 Rank for the Middle East & North Africa (Doing Business is part of Global Indicators Group, World Bank). Bahrain seeks to improve this standing. The challenge for the Central Informatics Organisation (CIO), as the entity trusted with this responsibility is the collection of reliable data from the diverse data sources, on a timely basis and its proper dissemination for use by decision-makers, economic planners, and investors. The first challenge is data collection. Current methods of data collection are mostly manual and time consuming. Second, the data dissemination (after analysis and quality check) is usually manual and static. Data users will be expected to draw their conclusion using hardcopies and published static data. This is a hindrance to make the current data readily available to the economic planners, decision-makers, investors and interested parties at large. Faced with the need to provide reliable, quality and timely data, the CIO embarks on a project, the Bahrain Data Portal and Bahrain Open Data Project (collectively the Bahrain Data Portal), implementing (and to be implemented) approaches that are holistic (end-to-end processes, policies, etc.) that include good practices in its data collection methods, making the data readily available using available technology in CIO and presenting the available information to cater for different user segments, and open to it approach to data availability. As a result of Data Portal project we can see the continual improvement in the quality and timeliness of available data for economic planner, decision makers and investors. We can also see the involvement of the public through feedbacks we received.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
Bahrain's Economic Vision 2030 strives to ensure Bahrain's future economic sustainability The strategy adopted a six-step approach from vision to implementation in order to achieve targets that are challenging but achievable. In late 2012, guided by the Bahrain's Vision 2030 objectives, CIO identified that information in its different forms must be available for better planning and to achieve the target of having an informed society. The Bahrain Data Portal, part of the Bahrain Open Data Initiative, is the initiative to fulfil this important requirement. It aims to disseminate public data and facilitate the creation of ‎knowledge. The central element of the Data Portal is to make available quality, reliable and timely data to Bahrain's policymakers and other stakeholders. To achieve this goal the Statistics Directorate of the Central Informatics Organisation was entrusted with these goals: improve the data collection processes and its timeliness (data collection), disseminate the data (data dissemination and presentation) in a timely fashion and making it available to stakeholders. The strategy we put in place to achieve the set objectives of improved data collection and data dissemination and presentation are holistic in its approach and are focused on achieving the objectives. The key actions taken include: (1) REVIEW DATA COLLECTION PROCESSES AND METHOD, DATA SOURCES AND COLLECT DATA Most data collection methods are manual and time-consuming. A review of the data collection methods and processes lead to the conclusion that one of best approach in achieving quality data downstream is to automate and reduce reliance as far as possible on manual methods to collect data. We also looked at the source of data. Being a Statistics organisation, reliance on surveys, as an example, is expected. However, using data from Administrative Databases (road transport department database, immigration, etc.) is another source of statistical data that we investigated an can be utilized. (2) A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO DATA COLLECTION We review our internal data collection processes. As part of the strategy, we introduce the concept of Project Management Office (PMO) and viewing data collection processes (surveys, census, etc.) as projects that have specific objectives, budgets, start and end date, and introducing the concept of project closure. (3) CREATION OF THE DATA PORTAL TO DISSEMINATE DATA We identify technology as an enabler for us to reach a wider audience for the collected data. We created a portal http://statistics.gov.bh to publish and disseminate data as it is available. This portal also allows users to analyse, visualize and report statistical data. Also, specific to decision-makers we created an app that allows them to view data online using their iPhones. The Data Portal makes data available to all stakeholders.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The central element of the Data Portal project is to make available quality, reliable and timely data to Bahrain's policymakers and other stakeholders. The key innovation is not only technical but also include process improvement. The innovative elements include the following: (1) USE OF TECHNOLOGY, NAMELY ICT We use the Government Data Network (GDN) as part of the backbone to collect data and move data from data sources for our own database. This also enable us to create online surveys, in addition to manual surveys, to gather data, thus enable quality and timely data. We also created a portal to enable online data dissemination. (2) INTRODUCING PROJECT MANAGEMENT METHODOLOGY TO STATISTICAL PROCESS To better manage surveys and other statistical processes we introduced the project management concepts to the statistical processes undertaken by the Statistical Directorate. Each survey, for example, will be viewed as a project, and managed as one. There will be a proper schedule, budget, project team, start and end date, etc. to ensure proper project execution and completion. To implement this, a Project Management Office is put in place.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The strategy for Bahrain Data Portal was implemented according to the objectives of the Bahrain 2030 Economic Vision and was implemented according to our Data Portal implementation plan. The initiative was phase and iterative (rather than sequential) in its implementation: (1) PLANNING: 2012-2013 Management of CIO identifies the need to embark on an project to make reliable data accessible (as part of CIO Open Data Initiative) to policymakers and the general public. It was also identified that this project will apply proper project methods to ensure of its success. A project team was identified and assigned to the project: includes Statistics SMEs, project management, and technical SMEs. (2) DEVELOPMENT – First Quarter of 2013 A reputable vendor (vendor has prior engagement with the World Bank) was identified. CIO internal team worked cohesively with the vendor to develop the Data Portal. Testing and preparation was done in concurrently while the system is being developed. Data is also gather during this period. The CIO looked into processes and identify areas of possible improvement. The focus of this phase is to develop the Data Portal and test it. Simultaneously the CIO prepares the live environment and prepare data to be used by the Data Portal (i.e. preparing on-paper data to digital data) (3) IMPLEMENTATION Second, third and fourth Quarters of 2013 During this phase the focus is to implement the Data Portal. Before implementation, stakeholders that include government departments/body, University of Bahrain, Bahrain Polytechnic, the private sectors were invited for a one day workshop on how to utilize the Bahrain Data Portal. Also, an administration training for 2 days were provided to selected stakeholders. The Data Portal went live (available on the web) in October 2013. (4) MONITORING AND REFINEMENT: The current phase is monitoring and refinement of the Data Portal.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Answer: POLICYMAKERS Policymakers are one of the main consumer of the information provided by the Data Portal (and its mobile implementation, the Data Explorer). The data provided to this group of users have the greatest impact – it provide the policymakers with the needed information to enable planning and decision-making. The input from the policymakers include the type of information required for planning purposes, and information required by internal organisation that Bahrain will need to provide. END USERS The end users are the general users of the Data Portal, that include the people of Bahrain, researchers and investors. Their needs were identified and met by: SERVICE PROVIDER |We engage an external party to design, develop and implement the Data Portal. GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT/BODY All of the technical requirement to implement the Data Portal is fulfilled by the CIO that includes hardware, software, web hosting, web security and Subject-Matter-Experts (SMEs). Also source data provided input and data for the project.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The Bahrain Data Portal project was funded by the CIO (CIO project budget), and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) required for the project were sourced from within the CIO. An external entity was engaged to design, create and implement the data portal. Most of the personnel needed for the Project are resourced from the CIO with the objective of preparing and skilling-up the internal CIO staff to embrace the changes expected with the envisioned improvement of the statistical processes. The following resources were dedicated to the project: (1) HUMAN RESOURCES Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) were used in two main areas: (i) data collection methods and data dissemination (statistics business processes) – 5 (ii) Other statistical business processes – 3 Project Management Office (PMO) (iii) Project Management – 3 (2) TECHNICAL Technical resources needed for the project comes from two sources: internal and external. (i) Internal: network (GDN, the Government Data Network), hardware, software, creation of web hosting and security was undertaken by the CIO. (ii) External: web portal creation was outsourced to a reputable vendor. (3) FINANCIAL The cost for the project includes the following: (i) Web portal design, development and implementation (Bahrain Data Portal and its mobile implementation) – USD 65,000. (ii) Other cost is considered internal to CIO – salary of staff involved in the project.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
(1) INFORMATION ACCESSIBILITY (OPEN DATA) The immediate output from the data portal project that can be seen is the availability and accessibility of reliable and quality information for policymakers (the most noticeable impact), researchers and interested parties. This is in line with the Bahrain's initiative of making public data available. As a measure, comparing it with the previous methods of information dissemination, information is timely and not static; the number of visits and user feedbacks indicates a gradual increase over time (namely from policymakers). (see http://statistics.gov.bh) (2) STATISTICAL PROCESSES The upstream statistical processes, like data collection, have been the main challenge for the CIO. When looking at the statistical processes as a whole, there have been a marked change in the way processes are viewed and conducted. Even though some of the processes are still manual (as it needs to be so, like surveys and censuses) introduction of technology as part of the Data Portal project contributed to the overall process improvement for the Statistics Directorate of the CIO. CIO is now using Administrative Database (like population databases) and web-based data collection (tourism sector) as part of its data gathering process that contributes to data quality and timeliness. As a measure, we can refer to the availability of quality data and its timeliness published on the Data Portal site and through its mobile implementation available to stakeholders. (3) USING PROJECT MANAGEMENT As an immediate bonus of the Data Portal project, the statistics Directorate of the CIO is now using project management methods as part of the statistical processes, in project reporting and monitoring progress.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
(1) METHODOLOGY AND METRICS The Project Management Office (PMO) was given the mandate to manage, monitor and deliver the Data Portal project. The project was phased, and at each phase targeted output is defined. This is thought of as 'milestone reached'. Due to the fluid and changing requirements, the system development process in place is iterative to cater for required changes. The milestones used included 'requirement defined', 'testing completed' and 'training completed'. To monitor and evaluate the Data Portal implementation we used the following: (a) feedback from users for the data portal and its mobile implementation (b) timeliness and quality of provided information (2) MEASURING PERFORMANCE (i) Feedback from users We monitor the usage log of the data portal (http://statistics.gov.bh) and the number of feedback we received from users. (ii) One of the important aspect data portal is the timeliness and quality of the data published on the site. This is measured against available data versus scheduled availability (monthly, yearly, bi-annually, etc.) Data must be available by the set schedule.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
(1) CULTURE Challenge – change of mindset and work culture on how processes should be carried Solution – training, both in best practices and processes Outcome – not completely, but changes can be seen as indicated by the use of project management principles in many of the work undertaken by the staff (2) DATA AVAILABILITY AND QUALITY Challenge – to obtain approval and gather data from different data sources and owners Solution – Provide better and less hassle data gathering tools and processes for data provider. Also, the use of Administrative Database (like population, road transport, etc.) in statistical processes. Outcome – better cooperation from data owners and timeliness of data.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
(1) INFOMATION AVAILABILITY In October 2013, the portal http://statistics.gov.bh went online. This portal opens up to the general public information that is previously available, but not easily accessible. The achievement can be measured by the availability of information online and accessible to the public and policymakers. Prior to going online identified stakeholders namely government department, educational institutions, and the public sectors were introduced to the site and how to utilize the many functionalities available to them. Information is now accessible and open for the people of Bahrain through the Bahrain Data Portal. This in turn increases the awareness of the people (including investors and researchers) about Bahrain. Evidence of this impact can be seen in the usage of the Bahrain Data Portal (visits to the site) as compared to when the information is static and lack of request for the information (published information in hardcopy form). For policymakers the availability of reliable and timely data is crucial for the creation of correct policies that address the needs of the people of Bahrain.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
(1) FINANCIAL The Data Portal project is funded out of the CIO budget. It will remains to be so and can be sustainable as it is part and parcel of the business-as-usual process for the CIO (dissemination of statistical data). SOCIAL From a social perspective, the initiative contributes to the social cohesiveness of the people of Bahrain. The reliable information provided by the CIO and its accessibility allows the people of Bahrain to understand what is now being provided to them. They become informed. (2) ECONOMIC Information is vital for planning. This more so as the Bahrain pints its future in realising Vision 2030, a focus on forward-looking policies in areas of healthcare, education, security social justice, economy and finance. To support this vision Bahrain requires reliable and up to date data to support the planning of the economy and Bahrain's important social needs. The same data will also be required by investors. The new Bahrain data portal (part of Bahrain Open Data initiative) have been identified as a contributor, through making reliable information available, for many of the planned social and economic changes that Bahrain wants to achieve. The experience gathered within the government and private sectors can be a utilized by the regional (GCC) and international government community.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The Data Portal Project offers a number of recommendations for other nations seeking to improve or embark on making information available online and accessible to the public and policymakers. START WITH A PLAN, NOT TACTICS We need to ensure the initiative is not ad-hoc and should be part of a bigger initiative that addresses what is to be achieve. Focus on what will need to be done, not on how it should be done. COMMIT RESOURCES AND TIME Resource and time should be allocated to the initiative to ensure that the initiative is sustainable and not implemented haphazardly. Too many things to do with insufficient resources and time invites failure. WELCOME PARTICIPATION AND FEEDBACK The initiative, as part of its success factor, must welcome and embrace participation and feedback from different parties. Making the initiative exclusive without active participation from stakeholders is unsustainable, as there will be no acceptance. Change is inevitable, but managing change by including the very people we are addressing is vital.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Central Informatics Organisation
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Ariffin Abdul Latiff
Title:   Project Manager  
Telephone/ Fax:   +973 36480914
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   cssoaow@cio.gov.bh  
Address:   P.O. Box 33305, Isa Town,
Postal Code:  
City:   Isa Town
State/Province:  
Country:  

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