STABILITY OF DATA
When considering acquiring administrative data it is worth considering the history of stability in the data and the drivers of instability before deciding to proceed with its use. For example, the frequency with which the regulatory environment around the system is subject to change is an important consideration. This is because a receiving agency may invest a lot of resources into its ability to acquire the data only to discover that the data are not available a few years after the initial acquisition.
How often the questions, data items, quality of items and scope and coverage change within the administrative data impacts on a receiving agency's ability to maintain a time series and also longer term plans for data.
These changes can also impact on a receiving agency's reputation. An example of where the stability of administrative data have impacted on an organisation's reputation occurred when the Office for National Statistics in the United Kingdom attempted to use health records to measure change in real outputs of services. Continuous changes in the underlying coverage and definitions of the administrative processes generated statistics that had little credibility and eroded public confidence (ONS 2005).
Other examples where business processes impact on the quality of the administrative data are when changes are made to the way the data are collected. For example, there have been changes in the legislation surrounding the exportation of goods from Australia. These changes have focussed on an increase in the security measures around the exportation of goods from Australia and have been in place since the early 2000's. As a result of these changes to the underlying business processes, the export data have become more detailed and accurate. Failure to explain the effects of these changes within subsequent statistical outputs could result in users misinterpreting any increase or decrease in export figures.
Whether the data custodian of the data will continue to collect and supply the administrative data for a long period of time is an issue for consideration as changes in the supplier of the administrative data will require relationships and requirements for the data to be reestablished.