NSS News - November 2013
Welcome to the November 2013 edition of the NSS News, a newsletter designed to keep you in touch with developments in the field of statistics. This edition contains a review of the International Year of Statistics, the engaging work of the ABS' International Relations and Statistical Development Section, a review of the SemStats 2013 Conference held in October and an update on the Essential Statistical Assets for Australia.
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Did you know 2013 is the International Year of Statistics, a worldwide celebration of the power and impact of statistics on all aspects of society?
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has been providing Australians with the high quality statistics necessary for informed decision making for over 100 years. We are a proud supporter of the International Year of Statistics which celebrates the important role statistics play in building a better nation for all Australians, and people in different countries all over the world.
During the International Year of Statistics more than 2,250 organisations including universities, research institutes, high schools, professional societies, government agencies and businesses in over 100 countries have joined to celebrate and promote the importance of statistics to businesses, governments, the media, policy makers, employers, academia, students and the community.
Throughout this year-long celebration, hundreds of participating organisations around the world have banded together to:
- increase public awareness of the power and impact of statistics on all aspects of our society
- nurture statistics as a profession, especially among high-school and college students
- promote creativity and development in the sciences of probability and statistics.
- the NatStats 2013 Conference - this brought together Australia’s statistical community around the theme of ‘A better informed Australia: The role of statistics in building the nation’. A communiqué highlighting the major themes, presentations and discussions from the conference is available on the NatStats website.
- release of the 2013 List of Essential Statistical Assets for Australia (ABS cat. no. 1395.0)
- launch of Measures of Australia's Progress
- updates to the Understanding Statistics Statistical Literacy web pages
- coordinating and sponsoring the national phase of the International Statistical Literacy Project Poster Competition
- provision of CensusAtSchool resources for inclusion on the Teachers Resources page of the International Year of Statistics website and
- ABS staff Statistical Debate on Data scientists are the new rock stars, and morning tea celebrations.
By participating in the International Year of Statistics we have continued celebrating the important role statistics play in building a better nation for all Australians.
For more information on the International Year of Statistics visit the ABS website, or the official International Year of Statistics website to learn more about this initiative and how statistics help shape your everyday life.
What's happening internationally for the ABS?
The ABS is actively engaged in the international environment. Across many important areas of work we contribute to shaping the international statistical agenda, sharing best practice, and building influence through regular contact with international statistical bodies and National Statistical Offices (NSOs) globally. The ABS also has a strong focus on building partnerships in Asia and the Pacific region, including through Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (previously AusAID) funded development assistance programs.
International Statistical Meetings
· 11th SIAP NSO Management Seminar on Positioning Statistics as a Development Imperative: Opportunities in the Context of Formulating the Post-2015 Development Agenda, also in Chiba (ABS attendees: Jonathan Palmer and Brian Pink, Australian Statistician).
· The Ninth session of the Governing Council of the Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific (SIAP) in Chiba, Japan (ABS representative: Jonathan Palmer, Deputy Australian Statistician).
· High Level Group of the Conference of European Statisticians meeting, Geneva (ABS attendees: Brian Pink and Trevor Sutton, Deputy Australian Statistician).
· Brian Pink will be in Fiji in December 2013 to sign an MOU with the Fiji Bureau of Statistics (FBoS) to consolidate the FBoS-ABS collaboration over the last three years.
DFAT Funded Programs
· Timor-Leste: The ABS works in collaboration with the Directorate General of Statistics (DGS), the central statistics agency in Timor-Leste to ensure that Timor-Leste has a well-functioning and responsible NSO able to provide good quality, timely and reliable data about Timor-Leste. In October 2013, Leading a National Statistical Office Workshop was delivered to DGS which provided training on leadership, strategic and corporate governance, and project management to 13 District Chiefs and 17 DGS staff at middle management levels. Also, a new Technical Agreement was signed for 2014-2017 to further consolidate the collaboration on statistical capability development into the future.
· Pacific: Since 2011, the ABS has partnered with AusAID (now DFAT) to provide a regional program of technical assistance and leadership development to 14 Pacific countries under the Ten Year Pacific Statistics Strategy (TYPSS) Action Plan. This year the Pacific will be participating in the first ever International Comparisons Program, supported by the ABS as part of a World Bank and AusAID initiative. In early December, the 7th Pacific Statistics Steering Committee meeting will be held to monitor the progress of the TYPSS implementation and identify strategic development priorities for NSOs in the Pacific Region.
· Indonesia: Badan Pusat Statistik (BPS), Indonesia’s Central Statistics Agency, is developing its statistical capability through a major program called Change and Reform for the Development of Statistics - part of a broader, whole-of-Indonesian government reform agenda titled ‘Reforming the Bureaucracy’. The current three year AusAID funded ABS program builds on the long standing relationship between ABS and BPS, which is designed to improve the quality and breadth of data; improve the production of statistics and develop the leadership and capability of senior leaders and staff.
Brian Pink and Antonio Freitas (head of DGS) signing the new Technical Agreement for 2014-2017
International Development Visits
The ABS regularly hosts international development visits from a range of countries for discussions on developing statistical standards and methodology. Recent countries who have visited and their area of interest include Myanmar and Singapore: National Accounts, the Philippines: Business Register, and China: e-census.
For more information, please contact Renee Bryant in the International Relations & Regional Statistical Development team at the ABS. Phone: (02) 6252 5456, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
On 22 October, 2013, Dr Siu-Ming Tam, Chief Methodologist and First Assistant Statistician at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, was invited to deliver a key note address to the First International Workshop on the Semantic Web and Official Statistics.This was the first time that Semantic Web specialists and official statisticians have gathered together to discuss how work on the Semantic Web may advance official statistics and vice versa.
The Semantic Web is broadly described as Web 3.0. However, if one poses the question “What is the difference between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0”, most official statisticians will find it difficult to answer the question, and not surprisingly, a tongue-in-cheek answer would be “1.0”.
Dr Tam believes that the Semantic Web, together with Big Data and the active international collaboration work to reform and re-engineer statistical production processes, are three key developments that will significantly change the landscape of official statistics in the next five years.
Putting it simply, the Semantic Web is a certain way to organise, describe and annotate rich content (statistical data, text, imagery, etc) – supported by a framework of international standards – that will facilitate the discovery, exchange, retrieval, processing and analysis of information from many disparate sources. The Semantic Web aspires to support a global web of data for consumption by people, machines or people assisted by machines, just like the web of documents supported by Web 1.0 and enriched by Web 2.0.
An example may help to illustrate this. In another talk presented in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, Dr Tam posed the following question to a statistical audience “How many Web 3.0 companies are there in Abu Dhabi?” By googling “Abu Dhabi Web 3.0 companies”, Dr Tam advised he achieved 65 million hits, and yet there are only about 110,000 companies reported to be registered in Abu Dhabi by the Abu Dhabi Statistics Centre.
So what is not working? The answer lies in the fact that the web-based descriptions of the activities of the companies do not allow for this type of research to take place accurately. The solution, offered by Semantic Web technologies, lies in two key enhancements. Firstly, structuring the data in “triples” and relating object to standards through Uniform Resource Identifiers creates a network of web-accessible linked information. Secondly, the meaning of this data – its “semantics” – is described along with its structure and format in a machine-interpretable way.
The challenges facing data scientists are to better articulate the value proposition, and raise awareness of the Semantic Web; and the challenge for official statistics is in harnessing the opportunities provided by the Semantic Web to improve the business of official statistics.
Please visit the SemStats 2013 website for more information.
The availability of trusted official statistical information to inform public debate and enable decision-making is fundamental to transparent government and democracy. Statistics tell us how society is progressing and provide a window through which the work and performance of government can be evaluated and assessed.
The Essential Statistical Assets (ESA) for Australia list is a key NSS initiative that identifies the essential indicators of the state of the nation. It is the first holistic assessment of those most essential statistics that are essential for meeting current statistical user requirements in Australia. This NSS initiative aims to ensure that as a nation we invest in the information that counts most.
Phase 1 of the project identified 74 essential statistics, composed of 178 datasets held by government agencies at the federal, state and territory levels, including the ABS. Phase 2 of the project is currently underway, and involves an assessment of the quality of the essential statistics. A quality assessment tool leveraging off the existing ABS Data Quality Framework has been developed to assess each ESA against the seven dimensions of quality: institutional environment, relevance, timeliness, accuracy, coherence, interpretability and accessibility.
Phase 3 will identify the Essential Statistical Infrastructure (ESI) owned, developed and used by governments to produce, disseminate and access ESAs. The scope of the ESI focuses on statistical infrastructure used by government departments and agencies. ESI represents a critical component of Australia’s statistical system, and a potential area for government investment in order to improve the overall quality of the statistics produced within it. It will also highlight the significant investment required to maintain these infrastructure assets, which is often unrecognised.
The last phase of the initiative involves determining priorities for investment. Given the critical role that statistics play in influencing government policy development, it is hoped that this initiative will be used to guide government decision making on further priority investments in our statistical system. The ABS anticipates that the ESA for Australia initiative will also work to facilitate more collaborative initiatives with other agencies at both the Australian Government and state and territory levels, to help strengthen our statistical system.