An unexpected treasure

SDD Aug news

When University of Arizona political economy professor, William Mishler needed Kiribati census and household income data for a project he was working on with Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) he turned to the Pacific Data Hub (PDH) to access the microdata he needed.

The PDH is a central repository of data about the Pacific and from the Pacific. It is a collection of different data platforms and tools and a programme of work that encourages data sharing and access for increased transparency and evidence-based decision and policy making across the region.

The Pacific Data Hub – Microdata Library is one aspect of the PDH where microdata is preserved, cataloged and documented.

’Microdata’ refers to data that contain information about people, that has been anonymised but otherwise retains the detailed individual responses to the original survey, to reduce the risk of respondents being identified.

In the past, microdata from the Pacific has been difficult to access. Traditionally there has been a conservative approach to the release of microdata in the region however, through the PDH’s work this is changing and a broad acceptance of the value of microdata for research, transparency and accountability is growing.

Central to this are government statisticians who oversee access to country microdata. It was thanks to Aritita Tekaieti, Republic Statistician in Kiribati, who saw the value in the request and released the microdata that enabled William to access the information he needed.

 

“Finding so much data on this small island country accessible in a single place and so well documented has been an unexpected treasure”, said William when we caught up with him to discuss his work and the role data plays in it.

 

Thanks for your time William, can you tell us a bit about your background and work?

My academic research traditionally has been focused on citizen participation and representation in the policy process as part of a more general concern with promoting democracy and democratization.

Virtually all my work over the years relies heavily on rigorous statistical analyses of survey research, which, when done well, is one of the best ways to understand public opinion and one of the best, as well, to give voice to otherwise voiceless people. I see public opinion surveys as fundamental tools for democracy. Indeed, I was co-founder and director for the better part of two decades of the New Democracy Barometer, a bi-annual survey conducted in ten Central and Eastern European Countries during the early years of their post-communist economic and political transitions. I also was co-director of the New Russia Barometer tracking public opinion in Russia from 1991 through 2012.

Parallel to my academic work, I have worked for many years as a consultant to a variety of Non-Profits working with USAID and, more recently, to the Millennium Challenge Corporation on projects promoting both democracy and economic development.  It is my work with MCC on promoting productive employment in Kiribati that has prompted my interest with data on Pacific Island Countries in general and Kiribati in particular.

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