NSO New Technologies

Part
01
of three
Part
01

National Statistics Offices - New Technologies: Part One

Our research team has uncovered several techniques such as the use of handheld devices (tablets, personal computers, smartphones as well as personal digital assistants), CAPI (Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing) technique, and electronic questionnaires as innovations utilized within the past twelve months for data collection by national statistical agencies/offices.

METHODOLOGY

To gain insights into new technologies that are being used by national statistical offices to deploy or gather data, our research team combed through various national statistical agency reports, research journals, white papers, and United Nations reports regarding national statistics among other articles. We researched for pre-compiled articles/reports on new technologies utilized by federal/national statistical offices to collect data. Unfortunately, there are no such wide-scoped recently compiled reports. However, we unearthed a 2019 United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) guidelines on the advances in information & communication technology that are currently revolutionizing how data (particular emphasis on census data), is collected from the field. The UNSD document describes techniques to be utilized in 2019 and beyond with inputs from Statistics Canada, Statistics Estonia, Department of Statistics of Jordan, Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and the United States Census Bureau, among other national offices of statistics.

We then researched for granular details, specific innovation/new technology that has been used within the past 12 months by any national statistical office to deploy or gather national data. We uncovered a 2019 academic document that listed some innovations regarding the collection of federal statistics such as the use of big data sources in creating national statistics. This innovation (the use of big data) was implemented in 2016 by Statistics Netherlands and in 2015 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). We could not include these in our study due to a timeline difference of about four years (2015 to 2019).

Finally, we researched through national databases, event databases and training programs of various countries and statistical agencies. We examined the most recent training on technologies being used by federal/national statistical agencies/offices to deploy or gather data. Insights obtained from the training schedule of the United States Census Bureau, Washington, DC and the Federated States of Micronesia Office of National Statistics revealed that the use of the CAPI technique, handheld devices, and electronic questionnaires are among new technologies being used by national statistical offices to deploy or gather data. Details of our finding are as follows.

1. Use of Handheld Devices (Tablets, PCs, smartphones as well as personal digital assistants)

According to the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), one of the technologies revolutionizing how data (particularly census data) gets captured from the field is the use of handheld electronic devices. The use of handheld electronic devices, including tablets, PCs, smartphones as well as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), has proven to improve data quality while reducing data collection time. The use of handheld device technology enhances data quality and the speed of data collection. The technology is rapidly becoming a standard across field-based data collection procedures.

An example of a national statistical agency that has recently trained its staff on the use of handheld devices in data collection is the Federated States of Micronesia National Statistics Office (FSM NSO). Between November 27 and December 8, 2018, a workshop/training on the use of handheld devices (for a CAPI project) for national survey/census took place in Weno, Chuuk, Weno. The workshop was the brainchild of the FSM National Statistics Office (NSO) as well as the Pacific Community (SPC). Handheld devices will be utilized in FSM's 2020 Population and Housing Census (PHC).

2. Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI)

According to the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), another technology revolutionizing how data (particularly census data) gets captured from the field is the use of the Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) technique. The advantage of CAPI includes the "digitization of data at the point of collection." The use of the CAPI technique also allows for a rapid and automated process of data aggregation. CAPI is replacing the traditional paper and pencil (PAPI) method of data collection.

The International Labour Organization ILO reveals that CAPI is a face-to-face personal method of interviewing where a handheld device is used to display the questions on a screen. The interviewer then obtains the response from a respondent and feeds them into the handheld device.

An example of a national statistical agency that has recently trained its staff on the use of Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) is the Federated States of Micronesia National Statistics Office (FSM NSO). Between November 27 and December 8, 2018, a workshop/training on the use of CAPI for survey/census took place in Weno, Chuuk, Weno. The CAPI technique will be utilized in the 2020 Population and Housing Census (PHC).

3. ELECTRONIC QUESTIONNAIRES

Insights obtained from a 2019 publication of the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) reveals that one of the technologies revolutionizing how national data (particularly census data) gets captured from the field include the use of electronic questionnaires. The use of electronic questionnaires along with CAPI is becoming the new standard for national data collection and replacing the traditional paper and pencil (PAPI) technique.

The Federated States of Micronesia recently (in December 2018) trained data collectors on the use of electronic (also known as remotely transmitted) questionnaires and the process of electronic questionnaire transmission utilizing the 3G wireless mobile band. In another report according to Jason Bradbury the program director for the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics (ONS) on data collection and transformation, way back in 2017, there were efforts aimed at transitioning ONS's surveys to digital (electronic) platforms. This transitioning to digital (electronic) platforms was aimed at transforming the way data would be collected by the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the future (from 2017 going forward).

Part
02
of three
Part
02

National Statistics Offices - New Technologies: Part Two

We have provided four new technologies that are being used by National Statistics Offices to deploy or gather data. They include GCDocs, Digital Data Wheel, e-Classification Mobile App, and interactive tools for trade in goods data by Statistics Canada, United States Census Bureau, Philippine Statistics Authority, and UK Office for National Statistics respectively. The details of our findings are provided below.

GCDocs

GCdocs is a tool that was developed to meet the “legal and policy requirements for information management of electronic and paper documents and records”. It is used by statistics office employees for storing, searching, accessing, and managing information.

GCdocs was launched by Statistics Canada in January 2018 and over 3,000 employees were expected to gain access by September. “Information from the existing Document Management Centre (DMC) systems will be migrated to GCdocs and the DMC will be de-commissioned.”

Digital Data Wheel

The Digital Data Wheel is an interactive data visualization tool that allows users to “explore and compare social, economic, housing, and demographic and economic characteristics from all states, congressional districts and metropolitan statistical areas”.

The American Community Survey (ACS) Digital Data Wheel is part of an “Interactive Gallery” introduced by the United States Census Bureau in 2017 where users can visually explore US census data. A related visualization tool, “What can you learn from the American Community Survey?” provides answers to frequently asked demographic and socio-economic questions regarding ACS data.

E-Classification Mobile App

The e-Classification Mobile App is an android mobile search tool that is used to search for “codes in the standard classification systems used in categorizing economic activities, products and services, geographic codes, among others”. The homepage of the app shows all the available classifications. When a user selects a particular classification, it displays two main tabs: the “Search” tab and the “Filter” tab. The user can then enter a keyword in the “Search” tab and the app will return a list of relevant codes and descriptions.

The app was released by the Philippine Statistics Authority on July 3, 2017, and it can function without an internet connection. It can be used by both the public and private sectors to search several databases including Philippine Standard Industrial Classification (PSIC), Philippine Standard Geographic Classification (PSGC), Philippine Standard Classification of Education (PSCEd), Philippine Standard Occupational Classification (PSOC), Philippine Classification of Individual Consumption According to Purpose (PCOICOP), and Philippine Standard Commodity Classification (PSCC).

Interactive tools for trade in goods data

The UK Office for National Statistics created new tools that provide a breakdown of UK trade by 125 commodities with 234 countries. This innovation enables the figures to be published together “for the first time on a balance of payments basis, using data on physical flows of goods, but adjusting them to exclude transactions where there is no change in economic ownership, in line with IMF rules”.
Users can “select a country by hovering over it or using the drop-down menu” and details regarding the trade activities of the UK with that country will be displayed. The experimental statistics was released on 16 April 2018 while the published data was launched in June 2018 in the Blue Book.

Part
03
of three
Part
03

National Statistics Offices - New Technologies: Part Three

New technologies that are being used by national statistics offices to collect or deploy data include computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI), an online diary for collecting household consumption expenditures, an integrated platform for data dissemination, and a mobile application that gives users access to statistics and allows them to share statistical tables and charts via social media. The Turkish Statistical Institute has recently introduced the CATI method in its CPI Household Rental Prices Survey, the Hungarian Central Statistics Office is currently encouraging its Household Budget Survey respondents to switch from the paper diary to the e-diary, the United States Census Bureau has recently developed a new platform, data.census.gov, to modernize data dissemination and solve interoperability problems, and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics has recently released a mobile application, the UGStats Mobile Application, to give users or consumers quick and easy access to the country's official statistics.

METHODOLOGY

In answering this request, we began by looking for recent conferences, workshops, conventions, summits, or forums on statistical data collection and deployment. With this initial step, we were able to find a number of events where innovations or new technologies were discussed. Among them were the Workshop on Statistical Data Collection, which was held in Geneva in October 2018 and was hosted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and ModernStats, the New Techniques and Technologies for Statistics conference, which was held in Brussels in March 2019 and was hosted by the European Commission, and the Regional Workshop on the 2020 World Programme on Population and Housing Censuses: International Standards and Contemporary Technologies, which was held in Turkey in March 2019 and was hosted by the United Nations. As a number of national statistics offices had presented their latest data collection techniques in these events, we were able to gather a couple of national statistics offices that have recently implemented new technologies for data collection, namely, the Turkish Statistical Institute and the Hungarian Central Statistics Office.

To find information on new technologies for data deployment, we scoured the recent releases of national statistics offices of large economies, including the Census Bureau of the United States and the Office for National Statistics of the United Kingdom. We conducted a press search as well for new applications, devices, tools, solutions, or technologies that are being used for data deployment or dissemination. These approaches proved productive, as they led us to the United States Census Bureau's new data dissemination platform and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics's recently launched mobile application for data dissemination.

As requested, we made sure that none of the technologies already covered in previous requests are duplicated, and we excluded geography-related technologies or systems. To ensure recency of implementation, we searched for technologies among recently published sources, particularly those released in the past 24 months.

COMPUTER-ASSISTED TELEPHONE INTERVIEWING (CATI)

As opposed to computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI), which was already covered in a previous request, computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) is a new telephone surveying technique. In CATI, "the interviewer follows a script provided by a computer, and uses a keyboard to record responses which correspond with a set of pre-coded answers." This new data collection technique or technology is typically used when interviews are short and structured and have an exhaustive set of answers or possible responses. Quick and efficient, this new way of collecting data results in more accurate data.

The Turkish Statistical Institute has recently implemented the CATI method in its CPI Household Rental Prices Survey. At the Workshop on Statistical Data Collection, the institute reported that it has been using the CATI method since January 2018. In data collection through CATI, tenants are first informed of the survey through an SMS. Then they are contacted via phone by CATI operators at the institute's Central Data Collection (CDC) unit. So far, the institute has found that the use of CATI, at least in the CPI Household Rental Prices Survey, has resulted in the following advantages: lower fieldwork cost, lower payroll cost, reduced regional directorate workload, increased efficiency, increased standardization, and improved controllability of data quality. While a few disadvantages have been noted, including limited communication with the respondent and difficulties in cases of data errors, the overall assessment of the new method was generally positive.

ONLINE DIARY

The online diary or e-diary is a new technology the Hungarian Central Statistics Office is using to modernize its data collection for the Household Budget Survey, a yearly survey with a sample size of around 8,000 households. Survey respondents are asked to record all their consumption expenses during a specified two-week period in either the paper diary or the e-diary. Though the Hungarian Central Statistics Office had begun offering the e-diary option in 2015 as an additional option apart from the paper diary, it reported in 2018 at the Workshop of Statistical Data Collection that the adoption of the e-diary among survey respondents is still very low and current efforts are focused on making respondents switch to the e-diary. The transition to the e-diary is still ongoing.

Three chapters make up the e-diary, and they are the monthly expenses, the daily expenses, and the "consumption of own produced goods." Each chapter has built-in predictive data entry and check routines or messages such as lower and upper cost limits. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, only a few households are opting for the e-diary. In 2017, only 129 households opted for the e-diary as opposed to 9,478 households that opted for the paper diary. That year, e-diaries accounted for just 1.3% of all the household diaries. The Hungarian Central Statistics Office's current challenge is determining how to increase this share. The office is firm in its belief that the e-diary will not only speed up data collection but also improve both the consistency and quality of data.

INTEGRATED DATA DISSEMINATION PLATFORM

A new platform, data.census.gov, has been released by the United States Census Bureau in 2017 to modernize data dissemination or deployment and address problems relating to interoperability. The bureau describes this new platform as "a preview environment for the Census Bureau to prototype data dissemination capabilities and
receive customer feedback on improvements." Data.census.gov is being developed as the bureau is moving away from individual data tools such as the American FactFinder, My Congressional District, and OnTheMap and towards a single, integrated platform. Based on the bureau's plans, beta versions will be regularly released until June 2019, and after that, the new platform is expected to be fully operational. The new platform has numerous features, the latest of which include large table downloads, iterated tables, pre-filtered tables, advanced search, geography collections, multiple table downloads, thematic maps, and table filters.

Data.census.gov is the brainchild of the Center for Enterprise Dissemination Services and Consumer Innovation (CEDSCI) of the United States Census Bureau. CEDSCI, whose mandates include enabling data to be "easily discovered, accessed, and consumed," acknowledges that the bureau has multiple disparate systems that are currently not interoperable. It reports that the bureau has more than 100 applications for data preparation and release.

MOBILE APPLICATION FOR DATA DISSEMINATION

Published in 2017, the UGStats Mobile Application is Uganda Bureau of Statistics's new technology for data deployment or dissemination. It gives data consumers quick, free, and easy access to the country's official statistics. Currently available on Google Play, it provides consumers access to more than 100 most-requested statistics, including those from the following categories: population, labor, prices, education, agriculture, GDP, and trade. The latest statistical information is displayed every time the application is launched, and application users can opt to be notified of updates to select indicators. Presented via charts and tables, the data can be shared on social media. So far, the app can return up to five years of the latest available data.


Sources
Sources

From Part 01
Quotes
  • "Statistics Netherlands has been able to use big data sources to create national statistics. It has drawn on data from road sensors for transportation and traffic statistics (Puts et al., 2016). Due to the large number of sensors detecting vehicles in about 20,000 highway loops, Statistics Netherlands is able to collect around 230 million records a day. "
  • "Many big data projects are currently in pilot project phases, including such projects as use by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of satellite surface reflectance data to classify crop type and estimate crop production. ABS is still trying to work out many important challenges such as ensuring reliability of the image data over time, aligning data to statistical boundaries, determining proper level of granularity for the data, and identifying the most accurate statistical methods for estimating quantities of interest (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015)."
  • "In the United States, a number of federal statistical agencies have been exploring and researching private-sector data sources, such as credit card transactions, other information from commercial providers, and information from Internet sources. Some federal statistical agencies are blending private-sector high-dimensional data with traditional data sources. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is currently running a pilot project that is web-scraping data from online articles in order to try to improve estimates for arrest-related deaths"
Quotes
  • "Jason Bradbury is Programme Director for ONS’s Data Collection Transformation Programme"
  • "What about the data? Moving data collection from the phone and paper to online has been a huge success delivering improved quality, an ‘easy to access’ online experience and when thinking about the impact this change could have had on our core function as a statistical body, I am delighted to share that we have not witnessed any statistical issues and all of outputs have been compiled and produced as normal."
  • "But isn’t the programme more than just about online surveys? As well as transitioning our surveys to digital platforms, we are also committed to transforming the way we collect data in the future, improving our reach and access to existing data sources. The Digital Economy Act, passed in April this year, will enable us to make greater use of new data sources such as administrative data and to better target the questions we may still need to ask. "
  • "Our aim is to provide better data to support better decisions, reaching out to new and existing users. If you are a provider of data, whether as part of a business, or a respondent to one of our household surveys we are extremely grateful. The information you give us is crucial."
Quotes
  • "Introduction to CAPI • Computer Assisted Personal Interview • A face-to-face personal interviewing mode in which a handheld device displays the questions onscreen, the interviewer obtains the response of the respondent and feeds it into the device • It brings all survey components such as questionnaire design, managing, supervising, interviewing, data entry, validation etc. together in one loop"
Quotes
  • "During November 27 – December 8, 2018 the Training of CAPI Use for Survey/Census Household Listing was conducted in Weno, Chuuk, Weno. The workshop was organized by the FSM National Statistics Office (NSO) and the Pacific Community (SPC)."
  • "This is a crucial exercise for FSM NSO as it has committed to use CAPI in its upcoming two major data collection activities – 2019 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) and the 2020 Population and Housing Census (PHC)."
From Part 03
Quotes
  • "In this practice, the data which had been previously collected by regional directorates are now collected by central office via CATI method. The strengths and weaknesses in data collection were determined in the transition attempts to CATI method. The reactions of the respondents for data collection by phone were also determined."
  • "In addition, mostly positive results were obtained. CPI Household Rental Prices Survey provided a base for surveys such as household labor force survey, which is planned to collect data via CATI method in the next years."
Quotes
  • "From the statistical institution perspective it considerably speed up the data collection and increase the quality of COICOP coding process. It shortens the evaluation period, and improve the quality and consistency of the recorded data. The inclusion of the online monitoring system provides up-to-date information on the evolution of the achieved sample over time. "
  • "After the capacity building period it is cost effective. Any modification to the standard e-Diary can be constructed by the statistician."
Quotes
  • "CEDSCI is currently developing an enabling environment that is flexible and extensible. The environment is being developed in a componentized way so that as technology changes the environment can easily adapt. "
  • "Some of the business challenges the technologies are addressing includes: enterprise metadata management, information discovery, and information access. "
Quotes
  • "We are moving away from delivering data through many individual tools (e.g., American FactFinder, OnTheMap, My Congressional District) to a model where those tools’ capabilities are integrated and served on a single platform, eventually accessible by a single search bar on Census.gov. Our vision for data dissemination is to improve the customer experience so users spend less time searching for data products and more time using them. "
Quotes
  • "This is the first release of the UG stat app which is broken in to four sections: Key Economic Indicators, Census 2014 Data, and about UBOS."
Quotes
  • "Over 100 most requested statistics from different data categories, including Population, Prices, Labour, Agriculture Education, Trade, GDP and others are available for access via this mobile app. "
  • "The data are updated when released, and each time you launch the app, the data will also be updated to your mobile devices to reflect the latest statistical information. You can also receive notifications on latest data updates for your preferred indicators as soon as they are released."
  • "The data are presented in tables and bar charts and you can share these charts via social media. You can toggle between tables and charts."
Quotes
  • "The interviewer follows a script provided by a computer, and uses a keyboard to record responses which correspond with a set of pre-coded answers. CATI research usually works best with shorter, structured interviews that have an exhaustive list of answers."