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.
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.
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.