Stefan Schweinfest, Acting Director, United Nations Statistical Division

How new and emerging data sources
might strengthen Human Development
Third Conference on Measuring Human Progress
Can HD Measurement Inform the Post-2015 Agenda
New York, 10-11 March 2014
Session 5
Stefan Schweinfest
Acting Director
United Nations Statistics Division
Expected consequences of the post-2015
1) Significant extension of data requirements in terms
of scope and disaggregation
2) Increased focus on individuals well-being in all its
3) Increased role of statistics
is calling for a “data revolution”
Core ideas of the proposed “data revolution”
1. Bring new information technologies (e.g. mobile technology)
and statistics together to improve development data
2. Disaggregate data (by gender, geography, income,..), to make
sure that “no one is left behind”
3. Better data and statistics for better accountability and better
decision making
“A true data revolution would draw on existing and new sources of data to fully
integrate statistics into decision making, promote open access to, and use of, data
and ensure increased support for statistical systems.”
Main challenges for statistics:
Data dimension:
 Fill existing data gaps and satisfy the increased
requirements: new methodologies, integration with geospatial
information, big data, smart IT use/methods of data capture,
strengthening of existing statistical tools: household surveys,
administrative sources, census/vital statistics registration,
agricultural surveys, measurement frameworks (SNA/SEEA) etc.
Capacity dimension
 Strengthen capacity at all levels; strengthen partnerships
and coordination
Big Data discussed by official statisticians
UNSC, February 2013, Friday Seminar on “Big Data for Policy,
Development and Official Statistics”
59th ISI World Statistics Congress, August 2013 discussed big data
European Statistical System, September 2013, Director Generals adopted
the Scheveningen Memorandum on Big Data
Bureau of Conference of European Statisticians, 22 October 2013, in-depth
review of Big Data
UNSD and NBS China, October 2013, international seminar on Big Data
and Modernizing Statistical Systems
Survey of statistical offices, Fall 2013: 107 responses were received and
UNSC, March 2014, SG report “Big data and modernization of statistical
Survey results: Sources of Big Data
 Administrative data: Tax, VAT and Social Security data (not
regarded as ‘real’ Big Data) - share the challenges such as
confidentiality and legislation
 Transactional sources: supermarket scanner data, phone
communication, credit cards transactions and toll collection data
 Sensor or satellite sources: several countries use satellite
imaging for survey design and land use
 Tracking or GPS sources: used by a few countries
 Behavioral data sources: not yet used
 Opinion or social media sources: very few countries make use
Some current examples
 Australia, Colombia: use of satellite images of
land use for agriculture statistics
 Bhutan: mobile communication technology for
data collection for consumer price index
 Estonia: mobile positioning data for international
travel statistics
Survey results: Areas of use (in next 12
 Scanner data or web scraping for frequently updated price indices
that complement the standard consumer price index
 Also producer prices, real estate prices and hotel prices
 Mobile phone data used for travel and tourism statistics
 Social media sentiment for consumer confidence
 Web vacancy data for employment statistics
 Use of detailed data from highway tolls and road sensors for
transportation statistics
 Use of satellite images of land use for agriculture statistics
Potential and challenges of Big Data
 The existing IT infrastructure and capabilities
have to be enhanced to support the processing
of high-volume and high-velocity data from
various sources
 More advanced skills for data analysis and
computational informatics are necessary
 The Government sector will need to invest
considerable efforts to establish an authorizing
framework, which fosters public trust and sets out
the rules for access and use of automatically
generated digital data with a personal content
Way forward
 Big Data is here to stay, and raises similar challenges
and opportunities for most countries
 Experiences, practices and solutions can be shared
 Regional initiatives have started at UNECE and
 Outcome from 45th Statistical Commission was the
creation of a UN Global Working Group on the use of
Big Data for official statistics, which will
 Complement regional initiatives
 Address the potential use of Big Data for the post2015 development agenda
 Establish Big Data platform for inventory of data
sources, guidelines and analytical tools
Vital statistics reported to the UN DYB 2010-2012
Thank You !
Stefan Schweinfest
Acting Director
United Nations Statistics Division
[email protected]

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