Emergency Procurement: The Role of Big Open Data

Fazekas, Mihály, and Sánchez, Alfredo H Hernandez (2021) Emergency Procurement: The Role of Big Open Data. In S. Arrowsmith, L. Butler, A. L. Chimia and C. Yukins (eds.) Public Procurement in (a) Crisis: global lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. Hart Publishing. Chapter 23.

The 2020 Global Pandemic has been a watershed moment for the world economy on a scale unseen since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. The COVID-19 crisis has demanded rapid government responses around the world, from the re-erection of travel and internal mobility restrictions to the massive and sudden acquisitions of medical supplies such as personal protective equipment and ventilators. These developments have had an impact on public procurement systems, not the least on data and analytical frameworks, putting existing mechanisms to the test, and shining a light on areas of opportunity for reform.

This chapter seeks to answer the following questions. How can data be leveraged to improve procurement outcomes in emergency situations? What do we need to do now to get our data systems ready for the next crisis?

The chapter is organized as follows. We define the term Big Data and identify the characteristics that distinguish it from traditional sources. We outline the features of high-quality datasets and their importance for transparency. In section III, we consider the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has posed for the public acquisition of emergency goods, as well as for wider monitoring efforts to assess the integrity of such transactions. In section IV, we argue that the crisis has highlighted important shortcomings in procurement data reporting such as the lack of sufficiently detailed information on suppliers, products, demand, and subsequent utilization. In the final section, we trace a path forward in which the promises of Big Data are fulfilled, reflecting on the lessons learnt from this crisis and proposals to face subsequent ones on a stronger footing. These proposals include improving reporting practices, as well as data literacy among policymakers and stakeholders.

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