The University of the South Pacific Students’ Association (USPSA) hosted a two-day seminar on open data and governance for students and youth last week.
The USPSA hosted the seminar with the International Foundation of Electoral Systems (IFES), supported by the USAID-funded Promoting Just, Engaged, Civic minded and Transparent (PROJECT) Governance. It is also supported by the Pacific Community (SPC).
The two-day event bought together open data and governance experts, academics and policymakers from different regional and beyond fields.
The event also included students from Niue, Nauru, Kiribati Samoa, Cook Islands, USP Lautoka, and Labasa Campuses.
The event culminates in an idea-generation session to discuss specific open data projects or initiatives students could implement.
Speaking at the seminar’s opening, USP Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Pal Ahluwalia said, “Fostering open governance requires a faceted approach, and we have to work across all levels and sectors to ensure that this becomes a reality for us in the Pacific. Our commitment to good governance is evident in the university strategic plan for 2022 to 2024, and it’s crucial for achieving our objectives and ensuring long-term viability and reputation.”
“So, for us at USP, we prioritise this in all aspects of our endeavour to shape the future of the Pacific. Good governance is integral for any organisation. At USP, we offer a compulsory course to all our undergraduate students on ethics and governance, encouraging our students to focus on improving governance processes and building a culture of accountability within the region,” he added.
Professor Ahluwalia also said, “The workshop is an opportunity for participants to hear and learn from some remarkable facilitators and speakers, and I hope that you use the sessions to aid your personal development and endeavours, particularly since at the culmination of the workshop the youths will be part of an idea generation session that will assist in your bids for small grants competition promoting Pacific Open Data projects.”
The USP Vice-Chancellor highlighted that he is also looking forward to a thorough report on the submitted projects.
USAID Senior Development Advisor Michael Glees acknowledged the faculty and the students for their efforts to bring this event together.
“I’d like to underscore when President Biden hosted Pacific leaders in September to Washington, one of his commitments was to strengthen our relationship across the region, but especially with USP, and I think today shows that we are making this partnership stronger.” Mr Glees said.
“Over the next two days, you will all be focusing on generating open data and open governance in the Pacific, and I hope it will reinforce your understanding of the role that increasing public sector transparency and accountability plays in realising the goal of good governance as well as promoting as the VC said collective action against common threats,” he added.
Mr Glees said, “To improve transparency and accountability requires strong oversight. And this requires strong oversight requires access to information. When good governance takes root, we can envision a future where people and organisations communities use data to make decisions quickly, enable innovation, provide more efficient services, and fuel economic growth. Open data is also good for strong democracy when citizens are informed; they can hold leaders to account, they can make their own informed they can make personal decisions on a more informed basis and demand better services and accountability and representation from their leaders.”
Mr Glees also highlighted that USAID would have a Mission Director on the ground in September as Fiji becomes home to USAID Pacific headquarters.
Mark Silva, who currently serves as the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) senior project advisor, said, “This two-day seminar is the start of a process whereby you will engage in the idea of and the reality of promoting good governance because as you as you move forward with your academic careers, when you graduate, and you start to a professional, working lives the challenge of solidifying and integrating good governance.”
USP Students Association Deputy Secretary General Mr Aneet Kumar has thanked IFES and SPC for the partnership under PROJECT Governance. “Collaboration as such goes to the heart of our daily work of collectively working with such partners to provide opportunities for aspirational leaders to respond to unique Pacific challenges that are innovative, relevant and appropriate.”
Over 150 Students and Youths participated in this two-day workshop from seven countries across the Pacific.