Mr. Thomas Gass Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Seminar on Emerging Issues “Managing the Data Revolution: Integrated Statistics and Partnerships in Data for Statistical Organizations in the Post-2015 Era”

Distinguished  delegates,
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to open this important Seminar on Managing the Data Revolution.

This dialogue is both timely and necessary. Timely, because it can contribute to the articulation of a common vision for the national statistical system, and the strategic response in realising this vision.  Necessary, because innovations in partnerships are required for national statistical offices to meet the increase and changes in demand for monitoring and reporting in the post 2015 era.

While the title of this seminar refers to managing the data revolution, the purpose is not to be defensive and protect ourselves against change, but rather to acknowledge and embrace the changes in needs, expectations and opportunities related to statistics.

The Secretary-General’s High Level Panel report on the post-2015 development agenda mentioned two important objectives that should be part of the data revolution:  

1)  integrating statistics into public and private decision making; and

2)  building trust between society and states through transparency and accountability

The recent adoption of the General Assembly resolution on the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics was a breakthrough. It was an important step in providing guidance for national statistical systems in the post-2015 development era.

Indeed, national statistical organizations are confronted on a daily basis with the increasing demands for relevant, robust and timely statistics. Not only are they faced with increasing demands for statistics, but – at the same time – with decreasing budget allocations and declining response rates on their traditional collection instruments.

Meanwhile, with the fast emergence of new technologies, new data sources are competing with official statistics for more rapid – and real‐time statistics. We are all living in an increasingly competitive marketplace of information providers. This is a challenge which official statistics have to face and respond to.  It certainly adds a new dimension to the need for innovation and modernization.

Today’s seminar is an opportunity to help the statistical community address these challenges. Innovations are needed to ensure efficiency, and more flexibility, in meeting the increasing demands for statistics and related services.

One way is through the introduction of standard integrated business processes based on internationally agreed information models, which allows an increase of efficiency within and cooperation among statistical organizations.

Open and easy access to micro-data is another critical area of importance in providing relevant information to governments, business and the public at large. Efficient communication strategies – and a revitalized information management agenda – must help foster across communities, open data initiatives based on principles of open solutions and open knowledge. Statisticians need to move from being the bankers to becoming the promoters of the use of data.

Ultimately, we need to advance the notion that such transformation is possible, and that it can have successful outcomes. This afternoon, the representatives from Canada, Jamaica, Philippines, European Commission and the World Bank will provide important information on how countries have embarked successfully on the transformations of their national statistical offices.

Certainly, the purpose of innovation in statistical organizations is to improve the integration, quality and timeliness of data. The statistical community cannot – and should not – go at it alone. Partnerships with the corporate sector, research institutes and civil society organisations can and must be mobilized to facilitate the sharing and use of data repositories. They can help provide the stimulus to create open data platforms to benefit official statistics and their users.

These partnerships will also ensure stronger monitoring of the processes of sustainable development through shared metrics based on international agreed statistical standards – endorsed, and anchored, in the Statistical Commission.

The presentations in today’s seminar will address some of the complexities of the “data revolution” with the intent to trigger dialogue. This dialogue is expected to foster innovation in statistical production and management, through collaboration among statistical community and other partners. 

I look forward to a lively and productive discussion, especially as we prepare for the new demands for data in the post-2015 era.

Thank you.