UN Regional Forum on Statistics Explores Data Governance Issues

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Heads of national statistical offices, statisticians and other experts from across the region are meeting this week at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia(Photo: Puwat Chancharoensuk).

Heads of national statistical offices, statisticians and other experts from across the region are meeting this week at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to discuss establishing sound data governance mechanisms that respond to a new data-driven era.

“With increased availability and use of data come increased risks, including the need for data privacy and the need to maintain trust in data,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana opening the eighth session of the Committee on Statistics today.

She further called upon national statistical offices to work in new ways, transitioning from data producers into data stewards leading whole-of-government approaches.

Spurred by new technologies, data generated worldwide has grown exponentially in recent years and it is fast becoming an essential resource for digital economies. The COVID-19 pandemic also highlighted the urgent need for more granular, timely and reliable statistics and data for governments to make informed decisions to support their citizens.

Alongside the increased supply and demand for data, new tools and methodologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence are changing the landscape for producing statistics.

“As statistical offices embrace new data sources and new technologies, there is a need for strong legal and institutional arrangements. Data governance frameworks can support the modernization of official statistics and remove unnecessary barriers to release the full benefit of statistics,” said Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, Minister of Digital Economy and Society of Thailand.

Meanwhile, the region’s statistical community was lauded for the great strides made not just in measuring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but also in helping countries achieve them. The number of indicators with sufficient data has almost doubled since the first SDG benchmark report in 2017. This has been guided by a clear and collective vision for the region endorsed in 2016.

Batdavaa Batmunkh of the National Statistics Office of Mongolia was elected as Chair for the session. He expressed hope that the Committee will generate concrete decisions that shape the future of statistics work in Asia and the Pacific.

Building on the work of countries like Bhutan with their Gross National Happiness Index and New Zealand with their work on a Living Standards Framework, the Committee will also discuss how to capture progress on well-being and sustainability beyond the measurement of GDP. The Committee is expected to develop complementary measures of progress with an emphasis on climate change-related statistics in its forward work programme.

“I am fully confident that our professional statistical community will rise to the challenge to define broader measures of development, sustainability and well-being, that are equally solid as GDP and, yet, go well beyond GDP to address the policy challenges of our times,” said Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the United Nations Statistics Division.

Batdavaa Batmunkh of the National Statistics Office of Mongolia was elected as Chair for the session. He expressed hope that the Committee will generate concrete decisions that shape the future of statistics work in Asia and the Pacific.

Held every two years, the Committee is the foremost regional platform for bringing countries together to discuss strategic matters on statistical development, cooperation and the formulation of regional positions to advance official statistics in line with existing global commitments.