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Improving Official Statistics

President’s message: January 2020

Happy New Year to all members (and potential new members). If you have not done so yet, now is the time to renew (or take up membership) for the year ahead – membership instructions can be accessed here. By doing so you will get reduced rates for our conference in Zambia and access to all other aspects of our network.


Since I last wrote, Jo Green and I have visited Zambia to see for ourselves the preparations for the Zambia conference. The conference venue in Livingstone will be perfect for us. The facilities are excellent and the management are looking forward to welcoming us. The location is spectacular within the game park and just a few minutes walk to Victoria Falls. We also spent some time with our colleagues at ZamStats. The Interim Secretary General, Mulenga Musepa, and his colleagues are getting everything prepared and leading a local organising committee that brings together a range of government agencies, universities and others. You can read the report of our visit here. Alongside this, Oliver Chinganya, who is leading the Scientific Programme Committee for us, reports that there has been a high number of proposals for sessions and papers. More information about the conference will follow soon.


In parallel, we have been receiving submissions for the Young Statistician’s Prize which is to be presented at the conference. Gemma Van Halderen and her team organising the Prize extended the deadline to help those who had trouble meeting the end December date because of the challenges of making a submission in that month in many countries.


Continuing the focus on Africa, I attended a meeting on Data Governance in Tunis organised by the International Statistical Institute, Irving Fisher Committee on Central Bank Statistics, African Union and National Statistical Institute of Tunisia. The aim was to help develop innovative strategies for structuring improvements to statistical systems. Four themes were explored: data collection; data management, data dissemination and a final session, which I chaired, on better use of data for policy purposes. It was impressive to see a high level of interest from the press. This reflected the relevance and salience of the topic way beyond our community.


Key action areas arising from the Tunis meeting related to how best we can learn from each other. Development of south-south cooperation in general and specifically the creation of associations of statisticians at regional and national levels were seen as promising areas for progress. The IAOS is well placed to support such efforts and this question is under discussion with the Executive Committee.


In December I was a keynote speaker at the 4th International Conference on Administrative Data in Cardiff, Wales. It was an excellent event with a great diversity of presentations reflecting the increasing maturity of administrative data as an essential part not just of official statistics but of academic research in a wide variety of disciplines. My focus was on questions of data quality and the necessity for those using these data sources to understand issues of bias and imprecision and to work effectively to attain respect from the public. 


In the coming weeks I am hoping to join our friends in the Ghana Statistical Service for the launch of their national statistics strategy and to attend the United Nations Statistical Commission. I hope to see some of you there.


John Pullinger.