FORUM ON THE FUTURE OF THE CARIBBEAN ARE THERE REALLY DATA SOLUTIONS? i

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1 FORUM ON THE FUTURE OF THE CARIBBEAN ARE THERE REALLY DATA SOLUTIONS? i 1. DATA NEEDS FOR MULTI-DIMENSIONAL POVERTY MEASUREMENT: Evidently the measurement of poverty in all its dimensions requires high quality data from a number areas including: Health, Education, Labour, the Economy, Gender, Population, Households & Families, Population subgroups such as Children, Youth, Adolescents and the elderly; the Environment; Statistics on Information Communication Technology and how it impacts poverty and social inclusion; human rights and the ability to participate in political processes and in society in general. 2. KEY DATA GAPS: Critical data gaps do exist in CARICOM countries such as Crime/Violence; while there is data on Poverty it tends to be dated except for Jamaica that conducts annual Surveys of Living Conditions; Labour Force data on Unemployment and its profiles tend to be absent particular in the smaller countries that do not have household survey capabilities but there would be estimates from the Census; intra-regional FDI flows and intra-regional Trade in Service Statistics. 3. COMMENT ON DATA AVAILABILITY: More data are often available in countries but are not collated and disseminated due to key challenges in the National Statistical Offices and Systems. It was heartening to hear the Honourable Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development of Trinidad and Tobago speak in his opening address to the data that were available from the Central Statistical Office of Trinidad and Tobago for use in policy development in the areas of National Accounts, Trade (that did experience some challenges but is now on track); Inflation and Unemployment/Employment (again with a little longer lag than is desired) 4. ISSUES/CHALLENGES CONSIDERED URGENT AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS: 1

2 In what follows three key issues considered urgent to be addressed are discussed as well as an overarching issue that impacts Statistics production and dissemination. Some recommendations and conclusions would also be highlighted 5. FIRST ISSUE -HUMAN RESOURCES Human Resources is a key success factor in any organization, making the quantity and quality of the human resource available to perform core activities in the statistical offices vital issues to be considered. There are a number of challenges relating to Human Resources that impact the Statistical Offices in the Region and these include:- insufficient human resources; staff retention/ rapid turnover; a loss of institutional memory; need for training and for new skill sets; small size of offices faced with increasing demand for statistics and declining resources; to these can be added work ethics and leadership/management challenges. The main outcome of these challenges is that the statistical offices cannot produce the most basic data in a timely manner and cannot expand into new areas of statistics based on demands by users. Solutions to Human Resources Challenges: (i) (ii) (iii) Core Investment by Governments to provide for adequate staffing requirements; review and internal reallocation of the available staffing resources re inefficiencies/imbalance that may currently exist within statistical offices to free up staff to produce basic data and to commence work on new data requirements Training and skills development (T&D) to reinforce the competencies obtained in the past and to acquire new knowledge / skill sets, bridging the gap between the existing competencies and the new ones that are required given the changing environment; For example Hal Varian of Google stated that the sexy job over the next ten years will be statisticians which spoke to the need for a new breed of statisticians namely data scientists. 2

3 There is need to find ways of attracting the digital generation largely the youth to develop apps in statistics, and make use of data in creative ways; In terms of expectations re long-term career prospects, often this generation normally has a short-term view relative to pursuit of a career, say, in a Statistical office. (iv) (v) Mentoring and internships; Leadership and management skills training. (vi) Working conditions: positive and healthy work environmentaccommodation-getting people to work and enjoy what they do; incentives such as competitive remuneration; mobility and a transparent system of appraisal and penalties. (vii) (viii) Regional Solutions: (i) utilisation of universities to re-orient the education/training to the new breed of statisticians as data scientists; (ii) South-South co-operation attachments/ exchange visit, development of Centres of Excellence and e-learning; facilitation of twinning, documentation/electronic Help Desk/Knowledge base creation (online at the regional statistics office) Image of the Stats Office is an influencing factor in attracting candidates/retaining staff. 6. SECOND ISSUE - STRATEGIES A key issue that impacts the availability of statistics is the absence of a strategic planning process which leads to: an uncoordinated NSS; lack of relevance and general unresponsiveness to user needs and to the speed with which the world is changing; absence of/or inadequate user consultations; lack of prioritizing and planning which affect the timeliness of data production & data quality; a lack of sharing of information by agencies specifically administrative data; General fragmentation in the production of statistics leading to an absence of harmonization within and across countries; 3

4 Administrative data that are not produced for statistical purposes may not reflect the required level of quality with implications for reliability/ conceptual consistency; Critical gaps in the data (that may be available but not collected/exchanged )which impacts the usability of the information; Fundamentally no vision of where the office should go- and therefore no direction for the Human Resources relative to the work to be done in existing areas and to move to new areas; Cannot respond to the changes taking place in the environment and new data requirements Solutions to the absence of a strategic framework: The need for a strategic approach is required to steer the statistical programme and make it fit for purpose in satisfying the needs of users and to enable the NSS to respond in a precise, coordinated and sustainable manner to the changes underway in the economy and the new information requirements that the changes induce. Such a framework has been developed by the organization PARIS21 which is the National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSDS) and a regional aspect Regional Strategy for the Development of Statistics (RSDS). The NSDS serves to help countries to build a reliable statistical system that produces the data necessary to design, implement national development policies and programmes, supporting results-based management, better governance and aideffectiveness, empowering people in their daily lives and in holding governments accountable. The RSDS should be the master plan for regional statistical development in CARICOM and should be aligned to the national strategic plans but cater for country specific issues. In sum the solution is to encourage a corporate culture that can boost productivity of the HR and provide the roadmap for the strategic approaches, the prioritising and planning required to deal with the new data requirements such as the poverty data and other areas. There are implications for the positioning of the office within the public sector and therefore governance in terms of autonomy/implications also in terms of the change management and the leadership to drive the change; communication of the vision; participation, team-building and so forth. Ensuring that there is public trust in the stats- including integrity, credibility and independence of the statistics produced will be integral to the NSDS/RSDS; 4

5 Conformity to international and regional standards such as the CARICOM Code of Good Statistical Practices, the IMF General Data Dissemination Statistical System, use of Advance release calendars and the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics can lead to greater independence and impartiality in the statistics produced. 7. THIRD ISSUE LEVARGING OF ICT IN STATISTICS The challenge in this area is twofold- inadequate IT Infrastructure in the production, dissemination and analysis of statistics and also the absence of key IT skill/sets which has been exacerbated by the centralization of IT support in the public service of some countries meaning there is no dedicated in-house IT staff which implies an inability to leverage IT in statistics data processing and analysis; The main outcome is that it affects the velocity of production and dissemination of data; access to data by users; the potential re analytics. Solutions to this issue of IT and Statistics: The United Nations post-2015 report by the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons identified the need for a Data Revolution in statistics production. The Data Revolution was an underlying theme at the High Level Advocacy Forum on Statistics (HLF) in CARICOM held last year May in Grenada. The Honourable Prime Minister of Grenada emphasized some key points in the keynote address at the HLF as follows: ICT had the potential of in helping countries to move forward quickly and effectively and should therefore be the engine of the data revolution in transforming the national and regional statistical systems to inform solutions to the majority of the data challenges that existed and, that The data revolution in CARICOM must be powered by ICT and therefore ICT and Statistics must not be isolated from each other. Some of the key ways that ICT can be leveraged in the production and dissemination of statistics were: o significantly cutting costs and reducing the time taken to collect and produce data, thus enhancing efficiency. 5

6 o Electronic data capture of IT such as a paperless surveys and maybe paperless censuses in the future; o Data Warehousing, Archiving and in general implementation of data management systems; o data analysis and dissemination; o anonymysation of data to be made available to researchers; o making use of data Scientists and their role in data visualization, in creating opportunities for unlocking the power of data and translating statistics into knowledge and action; o to continue to think of creative and innovative ways to revolutionise the statistical processes. One such innovation is Big Data: which is part of this data revolution, that is data that are Data that are generally collected by huge corporations including Credit Card companies, through online shopping and through the use of social networks and which have specific characteristics such as the size of these data sets which leads to the term that is coined to name it. This is likely to impact official statistics and is on the agenda at the international and regional levels in terms of the usability of Big Data. 8. OVERARCHING ISSUE-FUNDING AND RECOMMENDATIONS Financing of the National Statistical Offices/Systems seems to be by far the greatest challenge since this has major implications for the execution of the current statistics programme; for expanding into new areas of statistics; and for the adoption of updated or new international standards and classifications. It also impacts IMPLEMENTATION of the three issues Human Resources; Strategies and ICT that have been raised relative to timeliness, accessibility and reliability of statistics. Given the vulnerability of CARICOM countries including high debt, poverty, growth etc; it is difficult to address these challenges effectively if their magnitudes cannot be accurately measured and therefore a vicious circle is created- no investment in statistics- no data to feed into national socio-economic policy interventions-negative impact on our development challenges- no investment in statistics 6

7 Given the post-2015 development era that is likely to increase the demand for statistics over the next 15 years, the Community Strategic Plan and the Samoa Pathway core funding for statistics by governments is vital. It is also important for our International Development Partners (IDPs) that fund statistical capacity across the region to coordinate their efforts and this is where a CARICOM Regional Strategy for the Development of Statistics that is to be developed can be used as a blueprint for the funding of statistics and in reinforcing partnerships; Further, out of this RSDS- a regional fund for statistics can be created on a permanent basis; A number of Regional Public Goods (RPGs)/frameworks have been created with funding from IDPs and which require funding to enable implementation in countries such as: o the common Regional Statistical Work Programme (RSWP), o Model Bill, o Data Management Frameworks including Archiving, Dissemination, o Position on Access to Micro data, o Common Census Framework; o Regional Implementation Strategy for the System of National Accounts 2008, o a number of guidelines and manuals, and o a Professional Association of Statisticians which is in its initial stages and which would require some support from IDPs/governments. There are varying degrees of implementation across countries of the above frameworks/rpgs and solid and consistent support is required to enable an even, strategic and structured approach. This is where the RSDS can lead the way ensuring a results-oriented approach in building upon these frameworks. Recommendations: Political will is required manifested by the provision of core support by Governments throughout the Region to enable implementation of the mechanisms that have been created to improve statistics such as the Regional Statistical Work Programme and the Model Bill- legislation that strikes at the 7

8 heart of an integrated statistical system and to create an autonomous/semiautonomous institute of statistics in each country; Support and championing of NSDS frameworks that have already been launched in countries or development of these frameworks where these have not occurred to provide the roadmap for the planning, prioritizing and funding of interventions required. Support to a CARICOM wide RSDS is also vital; Human Resource Development- investing in people- the range of issues mentioned earlier and more, to enable a transparent and participatory process of transformation/modernization of the NSOs. This would include critically leadership and management training; The infusion of ICT in the work of statistics leveraging with respect to the infrastructure and the new skill sets required The question is not, Are there really data solutions? But the questions: -How much will the statistical offices need to change their organizational structure and working processes? and how radical will these changes be and in what way and in what time can these changes be implemented and what of the financing? It will not be sufficient to be reactive on these. i Note several reports on Statistics of the CARICOM Secretariat were used as well as references made to the United Nations Report of the High Level Panel on Eminent Persons on the post-2015 development Agenda A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies Through Sustainable Development; Harvard Business Reviews several years; United Nations Economic Commission for Europe- Human Resources management and Training- Compilation of Good Practices in Statistical Offices,

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