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Managing information on governance

 

Minimum requirements of a national governance database

 
A national governance database should meet minimum requirements related to accountability, transparency and information integrity. These include:
 
  • The database should be maintained by an organization that demonstrates scientific integrity and is able to maintain rigour and quality of governance data. The organization should be subjected to quality assurance mechanisms.
  • The database should be maintained by an organization that demonstrates political integrity and is viewed as legitimate and politically unbiased by the public. The organization should be subjected to independent external audits and evaluations.
  • The database must adhere to ethical guidelines of data protection, such as confidentiality of information.
  • The database should be made available to the public free of charge in order to ensure that the national database is a public good.
  • The database must be regularly updated and results regularly published.
 
In addition, the organization hosting the national database also should comply with minimum requirements for strengthening demand and use of governance data. These include:
  • Raising awareness on the existence of the database amongst key potential users as well as the public.
  • Creating a user-friendly web interface for accessing the database, along with user-friendly publications of results and other materials to facilitate data usage. 

 

Information management system

Developing a national governance database is similar to developing a specific information management system of governance data. Information management is the collection and management of information from one or more sources and the distribution of that information to one or more audiences. This involves those who have a stake in, or a right to, that information. Management means the organization of and control over the structure, processing and delivery of information.

It is important to note that an information system is not the same as the technology upon which it is based: It is the sum of technological and human components working together to produce the information systems and services that government, civil society, media and other stakeholders need, and processing information for some purpose defined by the public interest.

Typically, the construction of a national database involves three levels:

1)       Collecting data from governance data producers

2)       Processing data

3)       Disseminating governance data to various audiences

Collecting data from governance data producers

Producers of governance data may include ministries and statistical offices as well as informal sources such as research institutes, think tanks and NGOs. Databases that collect data from local government administrations may use a decentralized system that allows local officials to input data directly into the database. Data collected from these producers may come in different formats and can include census data, household surveys, other surveys and administrative data. These data are entered, edited and stored in a central depository, which should hold all data in a cleaned format ready for all further analysis and use. The depository will commonly include all national data, including economic, social and other data, as well as governance data.

Processing data

Not all governance data in the central depository will enter the national governance database. A pre-defined and agreed-upon set of governance indicators will be replicated in that database. Data in the depository often need a process of analysis and tabulation before it can enter the national governance database. Analysis of results and preparation of data for different purposes and different audiences also will likely take place.

Disseminating governance data to various audiences

The national governance database should be made available on the Internet through a user-friendly format that facilitates snapshots of key governance issues for the lay user, and further analysis of data for the advanced user. In addition to access through the Internet, analysis and data results should be published in hard copies, in different formats with different audiences in mind.

Case: CSO and statistical office collaboration in a database of human rights indicators

Palestinian academic research centers and CSOs are providing series of data to the Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) for the development of a database on human rights and democracy, containing data from different sources. In its current pilot phase, the database focuses only on the implementation of the right to education. It will progressively be extended to cover other human rights areas and issues. This pilot activity includes a strong component of training of academic researchers and members of CSOs to enable them to play a double role as providers and users of relevant information. Today, in its prototype form, the pilot database is providing a common basis for gathering, coding and analyzing sets of information from different sources that otherwise may remain fragmentary, anecdotal and irrelevant for comprehensive analysis.