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UNECE publishes guidance to help National Statistical Offices increase the value of data for society in the new data ecosystem

UNECE publishes guidance to help National Statistical Offices increase the value of data for society in the new data ecosystem

Data stewardship - stats publication cover

The explosion in data availability is changing the world. UNECE and the international statistical community are working to ensure that data is used for the good of the public. Released today, the UNECE publication Data Stewardship and the Role of National Statistical Offices in the New Data Ecosystem will support National Statistical Offices (NSOs) to increase the societal value of data and to mitigate data-related risks. 

Governments worldwide are increasingly recognizing the importance of data for societal progress. There is huge potential for new types of data services, more timely and granular data, and new insights by combining data from different sectors, sources and topics, and greater efficiency of public services, for example by ensuring that certain standard information only has to be provided only once to public authorities. However, there are also considerable risks: increasing digital divide, heightened need for digital security and protection of privacy, and possible unethical use of data. Further, public agencies will have to address issues of data access, standardization, data duplication and redundancy, and the costs of combining and sharing data. 

Overcoming the risks requires governmental policies with foresight, focusing on strategy, culture, ethics, roles and capabilities to support an effective data ecosystem. As the new guidance highlights, for this to work at an all-of-government level, there must be coordination, accepted norms, standards and efficient implementation. 

Chief statisticians across the UNECE region agree that NSOs can contribute significantly – beyond producing official statistics. NSOs have decades of experience with statistical data. They are experts in increasing the value of data, for example, by linking multiple data sets, establishing standards, and building safe infrastructure for data. NSOs have experience with various data collection methods and use statistical methods, data science, and machine learning to generate insights from data. As holders of sensitive data, NSOs are also highly experienced in data protection and privacy-enhancing technologies.  

National Statistical Offices in many countries are traditionally the coordinators of the National Statistical System – the group of public sector bodies producing official statistics – and are well positioned to extend this coordination role. 

The publication is primarily a guide to statistical offices to decide whether they should extend their role in data stewardship. It will also help public data holders to gain a deeper understanding of the advantages and services that could be provided by NSOs. It is supplemented with country case studies to demonstrate the pathways NSOs in different countries have taken to progress their role as data stewards.

Forty-seven experts from sixteen countries and four international organisations contributed to the publication through the UNECE Task Force on Data Stewardship, led by Statistics Estonia.