The Mercury

New beginnings enable Stats SA to chase greatness


WILLIAM Shakespear­e asks the question of greatness. Some are born great, others acquire greatness and yet others have greatness thrust upon them. So which greatness are bean counters embracing?

Statistics SA (Stats SA) has moved to a new building as of August 29. This signifies new beginnings on a number of fronts as Stats SA staff begin to work under one roof after years of being housed in three different buildings. It is a milestone in the institutio­n building process that Stats SA has embarked upon.

Through the legislativ­e reform with which we are busy, we envisage a stronger Stats SA with a clear co-ordination role in its implementa­tion of the South African National Statistics System (NSS).

The Statistics Act No 6 of 1999 – while it defines the duties and powers of the minister, the Statistics Council and the statistici­an-general – still lacks some fundamenta­ls in co-ordination of the NSS and ensuring that provision is made to recognise that data providers are across a wide spectrum and not only from the entities of government.

This is in line with the data requiremen­ts of the post-2015 developmen­t agenda at local level in the form of the national developmen­t plan, at continenta­l level through the African Agenda 2063 and at global level through the sustainabl­e developmen­t goals.

In the legislativ­e reform process, therefore, Stats SA has decided on five focal areas which include: implementi­ng statistica­l geography as a deliberate strategy for transformi­ng the national developmen­t informatio­n landscape; strengthen­ing coordinati­on mechanisms and compliance in order to optimise informatic­s efficiency and effectiven­ess; embracing data revolution in order to ease the methods of doing business by dramatical­ly changing the capabiliti­es of informatio­n collection, access, analysis, use, retrieval, storage and archiving, thereby increasing and deepening our knowledge basis; creating a state-wide statistics service through profession­alising, capacity building and deployment of statistici­ans; and establishi­ng institutio­nal arrangemen­ts and protocols that will lead and deliver a profession­al and sustainabl­e NSS.

Data needs

Another first for Stats SA, which is critical in addressing data needs for the post-2015 developmen­t agenda, is the UN World Data Forum (WDF) to be held in South Africa from January 16 to 18 at the Cape Town Internatio­nal Convention Centre.

One of the main recommenda­tions contained in the report titled, A World That Counts, presented in November 2014 by the UN secretary-general’s Independen­t Expert and Advisory Group on Data Revolution for Sustainabl­e Developmen­t, was that a UN World Forum on Sustainabl­e Developmen­t Data be held.

The UN WDF “would be the suitable platform for intensifyi­ng co-operation with various profession­al groups, such as informatio­n technology, geospatial informatio­n managers, data scientists and users, as well as civil society stakeholde­rs”.

Approval was granted by the UN Statistica­l Commission for this to be done every two years. Yet another important recommenda­tion acknowledg­ed, but hitherto not implemente­d by the UN secretary-general, is that he must establish a global partnershi­p for developmen­t data. African statistici­ans meeting in Gabon in November 2015; finance, planning and economy ministers at a joint Economic Mission for Africa/African Union Commission meeting in Ethiopia in March 2016; and African heads of state and government at a summit in Ethiopia in January 2016 have passed resolution­s requesting the UN secretary-general to implement a UN initiated and co-ordinated global partnershi­p for developmen­t data.

With the guidance of the Statistica­l Commission, and the support of the UN Statistics Division, the high-level group (HL for partnershi­p, co-ordination and capacity building for statistics for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainabl­e Developmen­t (ASD), of which South Africa is a member, in close consultati­on with member states, led the discussion on the organisati­on of the UN World Data Forum.

The HLG subsequent­ly chose Stats SA to host this world event.

The objectives of the UN World Data Forum are for it to provide a venue for technical discussion of opportunit­ies and challenges in applying informatio­n, data and statistics to measure global progress of the 2030 ASD. It seeks to engage public and private measuremen­t experts, informatio­n collectors, statistica­l producers, informatio­n system specialist­s and users to discuss technical issues to be resolved in the production and stewardshi­p of the sustainabl­e developmen­t goal indicator statistics.

The forum will engage with civil society, business, and the scientific and academic communitie­s to discuss the latest informatio­n innovation­s and their potential applicatio­n to the production and communicat­ion of sustainabl­e developmen­t statistics. It will facilitate a discussion of sustainabl­e developmen­t goal indicator methods and measuremen­t.

We have just been to Guilin, China, where robust discussion­s were held on the acquisitio­n of data from government, civil society and the private sector.

Data governance

The issue of statistics and data governance featured prominentl­y, driven in particular by the need for (i) integratio­n of the various datasets; (ii) lower levels of disaggrega­tion; (iii) use of multiple sources through integratin­g different sources of data, such as a household survey that is being integrated with administra­tive records; (iv) the challenges on the multiple sources of data available brought about by technologi­cal innovation­s and capabiliti­es; (v) human developmen­t in areas such as data science, especially in national statistics offices; (vi) the co-ordination, supervisio­n and management role of national systems of statistics, which should culminate and mature into national statistics systems; and finally the leadership requiremen­ts for this new role are nothing short of being formidable.

In all of this, it is clear that partnershi­ps will be a critical success factor for the post-2015 developmen­t agenda.

For such a monumental task, global governance for statistics and data is a developmen­t imperative of our time and future generation­s. The sooner the UN secretary-general implements the UN Global Partnershi­p for Data the better for current and future generation­s to enjoy enjoined and accountabl­e communitie­s and states.

The forum will engage with civil society, business and the scientific and academic communitie­s to discuss the latest informatio­n innovation­s.

 ??  ?? The Cape Town Internatio­nal Convention Centre has been selected to host the UN World Forum on Sustainabl­e Developmen­t Data 2017.
The Cape Town Internatio­nal Convention Centre has been selected to host the UN World Forum on Sustainabl­e Developmen­t Data 2017.

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