World Statistics Day, October 20: Building Trust in Statistics

World Statistics Day, October 20: Building Trust in Statistics

As of 2020, 103 countries celebrate a national statistics day, including 51 African countries that jointly celebrate the African Statistics Day annually on 18 November. India celebrates its National Statistics Day on 29 June, the birthday of the legendary statistician and professor Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, the founder of Indian National Statistical System. The first Indian National Statistics Day was celebrated on 29 June 2007 and since then it is celebrated annually in India on the same date. The 14th Indian Statistics Day was celebrated on 29 June 2020 with the theme “Sustainable Development Goals; SDG-3-Good Health and well-being and SDG-5 Gender Equality.”
The United Nations Statistical Commission (STATCOM) is a functional Commission of UN Economic and Social council and was established in 1947. It oversees the work of the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD). The commission meets every year and submits a report on each session to the Economic and Social Council. The United Nations Statistical Commission consists of 24 member countries of the United Nations elected by the United Nations Economic and Social Council on the basis of an equitable geographical distribution according to the following pattern: African States (5), Asian States (4), Eastern European States (4), Latin American and Caribbean States (4), Western European and other states (7). The term of office members is four years. The United Nation’s Statistical Commission is the highest body of the global statistical system. It brings together the chief statisticians from member states around the world. It is the highest decision making body for international statistical activities, responsible for setting up of statistical standards, and the development of concepts and methods, including their implementation at the national and international level. The United Nations Statistical Commission has created international methodological standards and guidelines in virtually every area of statistics. It has played a key role in helping governments strengthen their statistical reporting, making data more available and comparable across countries and regions than even before.
Good data and statistics are indispensable for informed decision-making by all actors in society. Statistics permeate modern life. They are the basis for many governmental, business and community decisions. Statistics are vital tool for economic and social development, including our efforts to achieve sustainable development goals 2030. Statistics is also required for effective disaster management and emergency services. As countries and organisations embark on implementing the ambitious 2030 agenda for sustainable development, reliable and timely statistics and indicators are more important than ever. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030 impose an extraordinary demand on the national statistical systems to generate and analyse variety of data on complex and evolving issues.
Today, the UN Statistical Commission stands ready to play a key role in developing and implementing a solid global measurement process for achieving the sustainable development goals. However, for the monitoring requirements for the success of the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to strengthen statistical capacity and tap into the potential of new technology. We need the contributions and expertise of data producers and users, academia, the private sector and civil society. The 2030 SDG Agenda itself recognises the centrality of statistics and data to development. To put it in simple words: sound and credible statistics is needed for sound and realistic planning. Sustainable development will need to be supported by sustainable statistics. The call for better and credible data for achieving sustainable development goals resonates strongly with all of us.
Statistics are crucial to economic and social development. They generate healthy public debate and contribute to the progress of our nations. They are indispensable to academic research and the development of the business and the civil society. Statistics ultimately serve everyone in society. The fundamental importance of statistics has never had a stronger recognition than it is receiving today. However, an in-depth look at the process of development over the years reveals that there is lack of good academic research and collection of high-quality data for research in economy, society, demography, environment, national resources management, climate change and many other developmental challenges confronting the developing economies of the world. The university-level research also does not reflect collection of data and interpretation for policy planning and socio-economic development in broader sense. The civil society has no role in economic research and development. The national and sub-national governments should pay attention to this important dimension of development research and statistical analysis.
Our slogan this year is “connecting the world with data we can trust.” The key element in the design of this year’s theme is to highlight the importance of trusted data in the world today and also to building trust in statistics globally. The theme has two dimensions: statistics as a field of science, and statistics as public data. The World Statistics Day is meant to focus mainly on official statistics, but the scope of statistics extends in a broader sense. As for the first aspect, statistics play essential roles in broad areas of medical sciences, earth sciences and social sciences. Statistics as such is rightly called the language of sciences. Statistical methods are rigorously applied to all scientific research and analysis.
As for the second aspect, statistics are a central consideration in justifying almost every aspect of budgets, programmes and policies. Bringing out statistical publications is an essential public service, disseminating reliable and easy-to-understand information to the public is essential to generate public debate and intellectual discourse and contribute to the national progress and prosperity and help enhance welfare of mankind at large. Statisticians thus carry out an essential public service: one that promotes peace and democracy by giving citizens reliable and impartial public information about their communities. Let us all recognise the crucial role of statistics in fulfilling our global mission of development and peace.
In the context of big data, the definition in extended to veracity of data, which refers to the data quality and the data value. The data quality of captured data can vary greatly affecting the accurate analysis. The data has to be clean and credible that enables meaningful analysis. This requires a lot of work. Data scientists spend 50 to 80 percent of their time curating and generating data before it can be actually used. Data must be processed with advanced tools to reveal meaningful and credible information that could be used for devising policies and schemes. Data has intrinsic value. But it is of no use until the value is discovered. How truthful is your data and how much can you rely on it?
Statistics bears important roles in all times. We need local statistics to ensure that every child has access to education and we need global statistics to monitor the overall effects of climate change. We should also note that reliable data is essential, but this is not sufficient. Sound analysis and interpretations should be applied and the findings should be well communicated to the citizens. Furthermore, we should also keep in mind that value of official statistics will be enhanced if they are used together with other statistics and analyses produced by academia, the private sector and other institutions, depending on the situations after proper validation by statistical experts.
2020 is an important year when we celebrate not only the third World Statistics Day, but also the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, the mid-point in the 2020 world Population and Housing census, and the virtual UN World Data Forum 2020. We in India are not only in the process of conducting population census 2020 but also the 7th Economic Census throughout the country. This year’s World Statistics Day coincides with the Virtual UN World Data Forum which brings together statisticians, data scientists, politicians, experts from the business sector and civil society to highlight how the global community has responded to the data revolution and the demand for innovative solutions to meet the data demands of sustainable development. Exchange of views during the UN World Data Forum this October will make a good complement to the World Statistics Day.
Discoveries from statistical analyses and medical research are exchanged globally and collective knowledge of contagious diseases is constantly updated. By disseminating reliable statistical information on the status of the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures for coping with the problem, citizens will be able to understand the current situation appropriately, and many will make concerted efforts to prevent spread of virus more effectively. In this, statistics can connect isolated people together in order to win fight against Covid-19. Statistics has also to play an important role in supporting good planning for rapid economic recovery after the pandemic.
The quality of data is intricately connected to organisations’ ability to reach goals and solve challenges. Data won’t be useful – it won’t be able to serve its purpose – unless it is high-quality data .The quality of the data is important because it directly affects our strategic decision making. Poor quality data results in poor decisions that can drain time and money. Conversely, high quality data leads to smart decisions that help organisations succeed. It may be kept in mind that improving the quality of data is a continual process rather than a one-time job. The quality metrics of all data should improve over time, but it would not happen instantly. Our goal should be to keep raising quality. All data records and entries must be complete in order to compose high-quality data sets and should contain enough and credible information to draw conclusions.
We can be proud of the great wealth of reliable, good-quality data that is being produced everyday all over the world to inform policies, promote changes, and monitor progress of societies. Our work on the system of national accounts and the compilation of GDP and related macroeconomic indicators offer the world a reliable system of measuring economic growth and human welfare. It is globally recognised that transfer of knowledge and strengthening of national statistical capacity remains a priority for everyone because improving statistical capacity is vital for monitoring global progress. The United Nations Statistical Commission is committed to assist the countries to build a well-functioning statistical system that regularly produces analyses and disseminates relevant, credible and quality statistics – statistics that responds to users’ needs and concerns, statistics that can help us respond to new challenges and bring about policy changes, statistics that the public trusts to be truthful, reliable and useful.

—The writer is former Director General, Economics and Statistics J&K. gaqureshi@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.