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Conference of European Statisticians Addresses Data Needs of 21st Century

The Heads of 56 national statistical offices and 16 international organisations came together at the Conference of European Statisticians (CES) on 14-16 June 2011 in Geneva to address emerging global information needs.

We are surrounded by data growing on a daily basis at an exponential rate. Yet, only 10 years ago data were scarce and data collection discussions traditionally focussed on the cost and difficulties involved in surveying  Today, data proliferates and increasingly the discussion dwells on interpreting and making good use of existing data. Statistical offices face the challenge of how to transform this wall to wall data into meaningful information.

The Conference discussed how to change the products and processes in statistical offices to make use of the “data overflow” and provide better service for data users. Increased demand for statistics combined with the need for efficiency gains has already led to the reorganisation of data collection in many countries.

In many statistical offices this reorganisation has meant moving towards the use of internet-based questionnaires along with automated data collection. This involves the electronic exchange of data.  The SDMX standard as a common agreed format for the exchange of statistical data between statistical offices and international organizations is gaining ground. It is being implemented in several statistical areas allowing the vast data resources of national and international statistical agencies to be exchanged and shared through common data hubs.

Another focus for the conference was measuring human capital which includes the skills, capabilities and knowledge of people.  Human capital is a major driver of economic growth and productivity and is increasingly important in keeping the wheels of the economy turning. Data on human capital can help to analyse competitiveness of national economies, performance of the education and health sector, sustainability, how society prepares for an aging population, etc. But there are no internationally comparable official statistics on the topic so far. The Conference agreed on the next steps towards achieving a wider consensus on how to measure this complex issue.

This year, the Conference endorsed two guidebooks of global importance: the practical guide on the Impact of Globalization on National Accounts and the second edition of the Canberra Group Handbook on Household Income Statistics. These handbooks detail best practice to deal with the problems facing statisticians in regards to globalization of the economy and income measurement.

A driving force in developing methodological standards, guidelines and recommendations, the Conference attracts participation that goes beyond the UNECE region. Australia, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Chile and Brazil actively participate in CES work.

For more information about the Conference, please contact: Tiina Luige (support.stat@unece.org). The documentation can be found at: http://live.unece.org/stats/documents/2011.06.ces.html