1001.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics -- Annual Report, 2014-15  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/10/2015   
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PROGRAM REPORTS - STATISTICAL INFRASTRUCTURE AND SUPPORT

CUSTOMER SERVICES

The Customer Services program provides high quality communication and dissemination services to customers.

The program provides information solutions that cater for a wide range of customers and their evolving information requirements. These include self-service statistics and other information on the ABS website and social media. The program also operates the National Information and Referral Service, user-pays information consultancies, and provides support for the complex needs of researchers through streamlined access to, and use of, microdata.

Key achievements in 2014-15

  • Strong ongoing business delivery was achieved with products and services provided to a wide range of ABS clients:
    • 507 successful statistical releases through online channels
    • 35,993 calls and 8,150 emails were answered
    • 20 microdata releases with 2 basic CURFs, 3 expanded CURFs, and 15 TableBuilder datasets
    • 38 datasets available in TableBuilder including Census longitudinal, health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, and physical activity datasets
    • a total of 40 datasets available in ABS.Stat
    • 1,355 tailored consultancies.
  • Data by Region was released. This is a key ABS open initiative application and web service that provides an interface to and machine-to-machine interaction with ABS data sourced from ABS.Stat. The latest available statistics are updated regularly making it an ideal one-stop shop for region-based information.
  • The Population Clock web service was released as a proof-of-concept for the machine-to-machine delivery of ABS data.
  • The Website User Forum and Microdata Users Group were established to improve engagement with key users of ABS data.
  • The program strongly influenced the Statistical Information System Collaboration Community with regards to the collaborative direction, development and governance of the .Stat product.

DATA ACQUISITION AND COLLECTION

The Data Acquisition and Collection program provides a comprehensive statistical data collection service for the ABS that also encompasses administrative data acquisition. The program is leading the Acquire@ABS program to transform collection operations through the introduction of an online reporting capability that will include the first online Census of Population and Housing in 2016. In doing so, it supports ABS objectives by providing a high quality, timely and cost-effective service while maintaining the trust and cooperation of providers through a range of measures, including: efficient and effective data collection operations; developing and maintaining a skilled and committed home and office-based interviewer workforce upholding the confidentiality of information provided to the ABS; and continually improving the processes and instruments for ABS interaction with providers.

Key achievements in 2014-15
  • Improved processes were implemented to increase response rates in the Monthly Population Survey, with significant improvement in the rate and consistency in the Northern Territory while maintaining response rates in other states.
  • Response rates were improved for remote Aboriginal communities participating in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey collection.
  • The program continued stabilisation of systems, including providing new technology to our field force, improving the work health and safety system and enabling improved quality processes.
  • Work continues to improve the provider experience:
    • The e-form implementation project, started in 2012 to introduce a new online collection mode, was completed in October 2014. This project has resulted in ongoing high take-up rates for the majority of ABS business surveys and over 30% of household respondents now interacting through the online form.
    • A new authentication process has been introduced for users of e-forms which meets industry standards and facilitates self-service functionality for survey respondents.
    • The online Census Instrument capability was developed for the digital-first 2016 Census, to support two-thirds of the Australian population reporting online.

ANALYTICAL SERVICES

The Analytical Services program conducts research and development in analytical methods to support the production of high quality and trusted statistics, manage and mitigate statistical risks, and exploit opportunities presented by the emerging information economy. Key focus areas for the 2014-15 work program include data integration, confidentialisation, and innovative analytical methods for both traditional and emerging data sources.

By providing analytical support and methodological advice, the program contributes to the delivery and continued improvement of ABS statistical outputs. For example, the advancement of data integration and analysis methodologies underpins the creation of a richer, more dynamic and focused statistical picture of Australia for informed decision-making. Dynamic data confidentialisation methods and improvements to microdata access requirements make data more widely accessible while robustly protecting the confidentiality of information provided by individuals or businesses. The production of time series in seasonally adjusted and trend form are an important input to policy formation, decision-making and research. Examining big data sources helps position ABS to capitalise on the opportunities presented by emerging data.

Key achievements in 2014-15
  • ABS capability in data integration was advanced through important developments in methods that estimate the precision of linkage projects and new tools for the specification and application of deterministic and probabilistic linkage strategies.
  • Developed new insights through the second release weight for the Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset, providing further analytical opportunities for this longitudinal linked dataset.
  • Developed innovative methods of analysing successive Censuses and birth registration data to identify issues and trends in Indigenous populations, including changes in identification.
  • Shared leading-edge disclosure avoidance techniques in TableBuilder and Data Analyser with Australian Government departments and international statistical offices to improve perturbation capability and protect individual information against re-identification.
  • Continued capability building in demographic microsimulation.
  • Maximised the potential of existing data by applying advanced techniques to the analysis of the Longitudinal Labour Force Survey data, linked National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy-Census data, and the longitudinal Business Income Tax/Business Activity Statement data.
  • Built capability in statistical methods for preparation and analysis of satellite imaging data for estimating agricultural crop related statistics.
  • Formed close working partnerships with a range of government agencies and research institutes involved in analysis of remote sensing data.
  • Assisted the United Nations Statistics Division Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics, with ABS chairing the first Global Conference on Big Data for Official Statistics in Beijing and leading the Task Team on Satellite Imagery, Remote Sensing and Geospatial Data.
  • Continued work on international projects that are developing common components for data linking, confidentiality, seasonal adjustment, and data analysis for official statistics.
  • Assisted the Department of the Treasury and other Australian Government departments involved in redeveloping a static microsimulation model of the income tax and transfer system.

DATA STANDARDS AND METHODS

The Data Standards and Methods program is responsible for promoting the comparability, integration, coherence and quality of ABS statistics, through the use of standard concepts, definitions, classifications and procedures. It is also responsible for the infrastructure used to hold key definitional metadata and to store statistical data from which ABS outputs are sourced.

Key focus areas of the program are: transformation of statistical metadata into future ABS infrastructure; the modernisation of the ABS Data Management framework for transforming statistical data into future ABS infrastructure; and the development of new mathematical, statistical and computational methods to enable future ABS analytical and processing capability.

Key achievements in 2014-15
  • Data governance framework and strategies for managing data in an integrated data management environment were developed.
  • 2016 Census coding indexes for Occupation, Education and Industry were delivered.
  • A reference set of definitional standards and taxonomies was published as part of the delivery of Deputy Secretary Efficiency Working Group Initiative 9 – Develop Standard Definitional Taxonomy. The reference set includes financial, demographic and welfare data definitions and includes key ABS standards. The reference set was provided to government, through GovShare, to ensure better and more coherent collection of information.
  • Twenty standards were published on the ABS website.
  • A prototype was developed to demonstrate new methods and semantic technologies for representing, discovering and visualising complex information such as cross-sectional and longitudinal data derived from diverse survey, administrative and big data sources, to solve challenging policy analysis problems in the areas of firm-level productivity, labour market dynamics, and regional economic activity.
  • New techniques in machine intelligence were applied in developing an improved automated coding system for complex classifications to improve the speed, accuracy, consistency and cost-effectiveness of coding textual fields in survey and administrative datasets.

STATISTICAL SERVICES

The Statistical Services program provides specialist services to meet new and ongoing demands in official statistics.

The program supports the statistical collection and production processes, and provides leadership in developing the future methodological infrastructure of the ABS.

The program also minimises the load on data providers through efficient data collection methods, sample designs, techniques to control sample overlap between surveys and, in the case of Australian business surveys, through reviews and approvals by the Australian Government Statistical Clearing House.

Key achievements in 2014-15
  • In response to the independent technical review into the Labour Force Survey, analyses into the mode effect of web-forms and lower response rates were completed.
  • An improved method to remove Supplementary Survey effects from the seasonally adjusted employment and unemployment data from the Labour Force Survey was implemented.
  • Analysis into the volatility of Labour Force data series was conducted, with the results published as a feature article in the June 2015 edition of Labour Force, Australia, Detailed Electronic Delivery (cat. no. 6291.0.55.001).
  • Best practices and standards for collecting survey data by web-forms were developed and implemented.
  • Processes were implemented to encourage respondents to self-complete survey forms.
  • Methodology for automatically allocating Census 2016 field work was developed and applied in the 2014 Major Test.
  • Models were developed for predicting the work needed in the follow-up phase of Census 2016. The models were used to inform workforce planning decisions.
  • A significant reduction to sample size and provider load was achieved through a more efficient Annual Integrated Statistics core redesign.
  • The design and selection of additional Industry Growth Sectors was integrated with the Business Characteristics Survey through innovative methods.
  • A new sample design and estimation strategy was developed for the Household Income and Expenditure Survey. This will significantly improve the quality of estimates for households that receive a majority of their income from pensions and benefits.
  • A more efficient method for balancing national accounts tables was developed.
  • The program completed a set of development plans that provide leadership and directions for transforming ABS methodology as part of the ABS Statistical Business Transformation Program.