Upcoming budget should offer more data in user-friendly format

January 28, 2019 10:51
The once-in-a-decade census and the twice-a-decade population by-census are two major sources of government data.  Photo: chinanews.com

The Census and Statistics Department said it will undertake a once-in-a-decade census in 2021.

The census, the biggest source of government data, will collect information on population, education, economy, housing, and many other facets of Hong Kong.

More than half of the open data offered on data.gov.hk comes from the census.

From the data, we can easily tell which district is the richest and which is the poorest, or which district has the youngest population and which has the oldest.

We can also identify different trends and make forecasts accordingly, judge whether more resources are needed for education, or whether we should build more facilities for senior citizens.

The insights we derive from the data would provide guidance to the government, business owners and individuals.

Many say that the once-in-a-decade census may not provide the latest data.

In fact, a population by-census is carried out once in five years. The annual budget is also a great place to find updated data on some important aspects of life in Hong Kong.

By looking closely into annual revenue and expenditures, one can tell the focus of the administration, how the focus has been shifting, and the cost-effectiveness of government policies.

One complaint of researchers is that most of the data published under the annual budget is in PDF format. One cannot do a "copy and paste", let alone take a deep dive into the data to facilitate analysis. Moreover, the data provided is not complete.

If the government really wants citizens to understand more about public finance, the upcoming budget should provide more user-friendly data to improve transparency and promote commercial applications.

The government’s recent decision to raise the age threshold for the elderly Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) scheme to 65 from 60 has sparked public outcry.

Now, if the government provides sufficient data to back up its proposed change, the implementation could have been a lot smoother.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 25

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Information Technology Federation Chairman