Ambassador Delawie’s Remarks at the Launching of Dig Data, July 13, 2018

Ambassador Delawie’s Remarks at the Launching of Dig Data (a.k.a. “Kosovo Open Data Challenge”), July 13, 2018

Good morning everyone.  Mirëmëngjes. Dobro jutro.  It’s great to be here today.

Thank you, Petrit.  Mr. President, General, Minister, Ambassador Chabert, diplomatic colleagues.

I am really excited to be here to help kick off the first window of “Dig Data,” an Open Data Challenge.  As the first activity of the Millennium Foundation Kosovo, it is the one that aims to get you all active and you all involved.  Strong partnerships between the Government of Kosovo, civil society, and the private sector will be key to the success of this program and to the success of open data broadly.  So, I’m glad to see such a wide cross section of stakeholders here today.

As I have said before, transparency is one of the most important ways to fight corruption.  And, a critical tool for transparency is open data.  The U.S. Embassy in Kosovo has long supported transparency initiatives, from judicial sector opening to the recently launched Procurement Transparency Portal.

However, opening data is not an easy process, and it is a challenge that many countries, many ministries, and many agencies face.  There may be legal and technical regulations limiting the release of data.  There may be resistance to opening data from institutions that view that information as power.  There may be concerns about the quality of the data or that the analysis will twist the data.

Institutions may simply perceive that no one is asking for the data, so why should they spend limited resources making it ready for publication?  They may keep data closed to obscure corrupt practices or out of fear of accusations of corruption by people looking to score political points by manipulating the data.

Regardless of what the barriers may be, you, the public, must continue to demand transparency.  One way you can do this is to productively consume the data that has been made available.  If the government publishes data and it is never used, either for analysis, policy advocacy, or better serving the public good, then it is almost as if it was never released in the first place.  This activity, “Dig Data” is meant to challenge you to use available data in creative ways.  It will challenge you to talk with the government, talk with communities, talk with the private sector to identify what is holding them back from making data-driven decisions.

Through different U.S. agencies, in a variety of programs, we are partnering with Kosovo’s diverse communities to provide the tools to advocate for your needs and your priorities.  We are also supporting local and national government institutions to be more responsive to the needs of their people, and include them both in identifying problems and in proposing solutions.

The first window of this challenge focuses on an issue that looms large in this economy – unemployment.

Many of you on the front lines of trying to figure out where the jobs are, or what you should be learning to get a job, or where the workers are that you need for your businesses, are well placed to identify and co-create the tools that can help alleviate this constraint.

Dig Data is an exciting opportunity for all of you out there with creative ideas about how to use labor force data and to be agents of change in your communities.  I want to encourage everyone here who has ideas of how government can better serve your needs to step up and be part of the solution.

Now, finally, reflecting on my nearly three years here in Kosovo, I am remembering that one of the very first things I worked on was the MCC.  How do we get the MCC to consider working in Kosovo?  What needs to happen?  And we worked with so many partners here with the current government, the former government, the UNDP, the World Bank… I should stop listing because I will forget people, but today is the real launch of the first activity that resulted from all that work by all of those people over the last three years.  So, thank you everybody, thank you MCC Washington; thank you MCK Kosovo, thank you partners that brought us this way.

Kosovo, MCC, MCK, are working at record speed to implement the MCC programs here.  It’s great to be here to help launch the first activity, but you know, stay tuned – as we used to say when we had old televisions, there’s a lot more to come.

So, thanks everybody.