Development and Globalization: Facts and Figures2016 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

Infrastructure The system of public works in a country, State or region, including roads, utility lines and public buildings.
can be defined as the basic physical systems of a nation. So, typically, when we think of infrastructure, we think of roads, bridges, water, sewage, electricity networks, air and seaports, and so on. Infrastructure of course includes communications, so we must also include telephones, broadband, and the like. But in an information age, more attention must also be given to what can be termed soft infrastructureThe ideas and conceptual frameworks that give shape and direction to what is eventually physically manifest.
. In particular, given the growing complexity of policy decisions and trade-offs and the growing amount of information data required by national administrations to run a modern State, it is essential that countries put in place a well-organized and coherent national data infrastructureLogical organization of public or administrative data to maximize its potential value.
(NDI) (MacFeely and Dunne, 2014). A NDI is also of paramount importance from a statistical perspective, as modern national statistical systems must be able to access and use administrative dataAdministrative or public-sector data are defined as information that is collected as a matter of routine in the day-to-day management or supervision of a scheme, service or revenue-collecting system.
from all parts of the national administrative system if they are expected to meet the significant information requirements of Agenda 2030 and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

A national data infrastructure is the logical organization of public or administrative data to unlock its potential.

National public administrations typically collect, maintain and update sizeable volumes of data on a regular basis. These data pertain to the wide range of administrative functions in which States are involved, ranging from individual and enterprise tax payments to social welfare claims and education and farming grants. Typically, these administrative records are collected and maintained at the lowest level of aggregation (that is, transactions or interactions by individual taxpayers/applicants/recipients with the State) making these data very rich from an analytical perspective and critical to the ideal that no one gets left behind.

National administrations expend considerable resources ensuring that administrative records are maintained and accurate. With some additional effort these records could become exponentially more powerful, not only as a tool to help design and appraise policy but also as an instrument to assist in implementing policy itself. In effect, administrative data should be viewed not as an unfortunate burden or cost to the State but as a valuable asset. Well-organized and open public-sector information can contribute to democratic transparency, administrative efficiency and economic value (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Cabinet Office, 2013; Commission of the European Communities, 2003; National Statistics Board of Ireland, 2011). Administrative data are an essential part of the soft infrastructureThe ideas and conceptual frameworks that give shape and direction to what is eventually physically manifest.
necessary to efficiently run a modern State and fuel a modern statistical service.

A national data infrastructure

The architectural design for an NDI must take a whole-of-system perspective to ensure that all the important elements of a national administration are integrated in a way that allows data systems to “talk” to one another. If designed properly, the resulting data infrastructure will not only contribute to public-sector efficiency but also better support public policy design, implementation and evaluation by allowing public-sector data to be shared between the different parts of government.

Figure 9.1. Basic components of an NDI

An NDI could take various shapes and designs. One design, proposed by MacFeely and Dunne, is to develop an NDI centred on three key national databases: (1) a database of all persons in the State; (2) a database of all businesses in the State; (3) a database of all locations/buildings (see figure 9.1) (MacFeely and Dunne, 2014). Each database would have a set of unique and permanent identifiers to facilitate interlinkages between them. These unique, permanent, official and commonly used identifiers would permit public-sector data to be analysed in a way that would facilitate the identification of longitudinal, latitudinal, spatial and relational linkages. These linkages would allow movements in time and space to be properly understood. Thus, an object or unit (individuals, enterprises or buildings) can be tracked over time, as can their attributes or characteristics (for example, spatial location) and their relations to other units (for example, family, employer, school, car). Hence, the importance of an NDI, to both understand geography and space and also to develop dynamic indicators, is clear. The significance of permanent or persistent official identifiers is central to this approach.

Administrative data should be viewed not as a cost to the State but as a valuable asset.

The importance of being able to reuse and match public-sector information cannot be overstated, both for the compilation of modern official statistics and also for the efficient running of a modern State. Quite obviously, if the data made available to the national statistical organization can be shared across the statistical system it will have a profoundly positive impact on the quality and range of official statistics that can be made available.

It is vital that the underlying data generated or associated with these services are organized in a coordinated way using the permanent public service identifiers and the same internationally agreed classifications and codes. By better organizing and coordinating the management of administrative data, the potential of that information can be unlocked. To get maximum benefit from such an information system, the architectural design is crucial and must involve the relevant permanent and official unique identifiers associated with each database or register. For those interacting with the State in any service or activity, use of these official identifiers should be mandatory. A move to such a universal design will broaden the operational use of systems. Only with such systems can the interactions and interrelationships between citizens, business and the State be measured and understood.