We have a real problem here.
Are we allergic to data in Trinidad and Tobago?
Last week's entry dealt with the West Park Savannah. I wanted to get some facts while writing, so I pulled up the Port of Spain City Corporation website. What a dismay. Despite a great deal of articles about Carnival initiatives, the Corporation's responsibilities, departments, and various forms, there nothing to be found about the West Park Savannah. For that matter, I found that this was not simply an overlooked project; no portion of the website focused on ongoing projects at all! Nope; nothing.
At around this time last month, I wrote about drought. Let me put it this way: Finding information on local desalination was a job most suited to the likes of Sherlock Holmes. It was so bad that the only mentions of one such plant existing in Moruga were found in old newspaper articles. It is as if it does not exist, or ever existed, at an official level. As for the Desalcott plant in Point Lisas, well, what can I say? Their website's most recent - and only - "Latest news" entry has no date, but talks about a 2011 milestone.
These are just two examples from recent blogging to show how difficult it is to find information in this country. We are terrible at recording it, we are terrible at keeping it, and we are terrible at publicising it. Now if we are terrible at all of these things, then it makes complete sense why we are so terrible at making decisions. After all, are decisions not supposed to be made based on information?
These shortfalls led me to ask: What about national census data? The most recent national census data available from our own Central Statistical Office (CSO) website is from the year 2000. That's sixteen years ago! The website says that the 2010 census was delayed to 2011 as a result of the General Elections of that year. Apart from that being a very poor reason for the CSO not to undertake its scheduled work, 2011 was a full five years ago - so where is that data?
Not to overly focus on the CSO here, but they are supposed to be the source for national statistics. Have a look at their "Latest Indicators" page. Note the years of each entry and then look at today's date. Do you see the problem? I'm sure that you can.
Now I'm not saying that the CSO does not gather data, nor am I saying that they don't put it into the useful form that we call information - but where is it? Why, in the information age, are the most recent statistics not readily available on the website of the Central Statistical Office?
It is particularly telling that the statistics on the T&T entry of the CIA World Factbook, a website run by a foreign power, are more recent than our local resource.
We can do better than this, Trinidad and Tobago. It's time we start expecting, doing, and demanding better.