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Turning Official Statistics into a Data Revolution

This post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent industry perspective, “The Informative Power of GIS and Statistics.” 

Within the next five years, a majority of countries worldwide will conduct a census – the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about a population – to answer vital questions of national development.

For some countries, this will be their first census in decades. For others like the United States, it will be an update to existing official statistics. Official statistics are statistics collected and published by government agencies or other public bodies such as international non-governmental organizations. They provide quantitative and qualitative information on all major areas of citizens’ lives, such as economic and social development,living conditions, health, education, and the environment.

Whether a country is executing its first or its 24th census, it will create and process a wealth of data and statistics. These official statistics must be authoritative and trustworthy, because they will be used to inform policy decisions for years to come.

These official statistics will also be the foundation for understanding – to measure and monitor the progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals, as well as helping us all create smart communities. These official statistics will provide the foundational information needed to make informed evidence-based decisions.

Yet many countries still face challenges in making that information available after it’s been collected. From the initial planning stages, through gathering of data to the dissemination of data, statistical agencies face many obstacles, not the least of which is the sheer volume of data that they must collect. These agencies must also respect citizen’s privacy while providing accurate, granular and standardized information.In addition, citizens increasingly expect information available in near real time.

Knowing what data is required and which new technologies to adopt, adequately distributing resources across the entire census cycle and providing open data in a relevant timeframe are just some of the demands placed on statistical organizations. Mistakes in any of these areas could prevent government, business, and industry leaders from getting the accurate authoritative information needed for decision-making.

While planning, data collection and census operations are important, so too is sharing and application of data. Integration of GIS with statistical business processes can help statistical organizations overcome many of these challenges and ultimately provide authoritative data, more quickly and accessibly to its citizens.

To learn how to incorporate GIS capabilities into your statistics collection and dissemination projects, read our full industry perspective, “The Informative Power of GIS and Statistics.”

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