ABS Goals, Strategies and Key Projects
The ABS work program is established in response to current and emerging statistical priorities, and in the context of the ABS mission and corporate plan. Statistical drivers and demands are increasing both in volume and complexity. The ABS has a responsibility to respond to these demands within the limitations of the resources allocated to it. To assist to prioritise and shape its forward work program, the ABS has identified four overarching goals. Strategies to summarise how the ABS will achieve each goal underpin the forward work program and the organisation’s annual priority setting process.
ABS Goals 2012-13 to 2015-16
1. Informed and better use of Australia’s statistical assets
To achieve this goal, the ABS will:
2. Continued trust and support of providers
- Deliver high quality, objective and flexible official statistical solutions.
- Improve accessibility, timeliness and relevance of Australia’s statistical information.
- Improve the management and informed use of official statistical information.
To achieve this goal, the ABS will:
3. Long-term organisational sustainability
- Engage effectively with providers.
- Develop solutions that maintain confidentiality but unlock the value of information.
To achieve this goal, the ABS will:
4. Respected leader in the national and international statistical communities
- Better prepare our people for the future.
- Transform our business systems and processes.
- Foster our ability to innovate.
To achieve this goal, the ABS will:
Key projects underpinning these strategies
- Enhance the coordination of, and investment in, the National Statistical Service.
- Build strong statistical capacity and capability domestically and within the Asia-Pacific region.
- Shape and influence national and international discussions regarding statistical frameworks and policies.
- Statistical Business Process and Information Management Transformation in Australia
The ABS commenced planning its business and information management transformation program in 2010. This program, which will be undertaken in a number of phases, represents the most strategic initiative to update statistical business processes and information management infrastructure within the ABS since the 1970s. In early 2012, the ABS 2017 Group formed to lead the transformation of the way that the ABS collects, collates, manages, uses, reuses and disseminates statistical information.
This transformation will provide our stakeholders with access to statistical information that is easily and rapidly found and used, relatable and comparable. The ABS will achieve this by upgrading infrastructure, refining the ways data is acquired, and modernising the ways it communicates and disseminates statistical information to clients.
To improve the management of the statistical information which the ABS itself currently delivers, the ABS will develop a coherent and integrated environment for the life-cycle management of statistical data, which will be significantly more responsive and adaptable than current approaches and systems allow. This includes the harmonisation of statistical processes, methods, information management approaches and supporting ICT applications, followed by training in the new approaches, and the migration of processes and data from the existing to the new environment.
Australia is not alone in facing demands for better managed statistical information. Many other countries face the same challenges. The harmonisation of statistical production and information management approaches needed within the ABS is also needed by many other national statistical organisations (NSOs). The ABS is collaborating with other NSOs to develop the next generation of statistical infrastructure. Five collaborative projects are currently underway (OCMIMF – Operationalise a common metadata information management framework; data editing; web data capture; disclosure control; and innovation in dissemination).
- Ensuring a successful Census in 2016
The Australian Census is now at a critical point. Major changes are necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Census program and to establish a foundation for future development and innovation. The ABS will improve the sustainability of the Census program by re-engineering the 2016 Census, and building new infrastructure for use in the 2016 and future Censuses. The scale of change proposed is much greater than that considered for previous Censuses. Such change is needed to overcome the challenges in recruiting field staff, while maximising advantage from new technologies and ensuring greater efficiency and effectiveness of Census processes.
Census 2016 will move to a multi-modal, eCensus focussed, wave-based enumeration model, similar to that used by Statistics Canada in 2011. This change requires the establishment of a high-quality address register to use as the source of addresses to mail eCensus codes to dwellings, replacing the traditional model of using Census collectors to deliver and collect eCensus codes and Census forms. It will need to be supported by new, more flexible and smarter workload management processes and systems to optimise response rates efficiently. These changes to the Census are needed to improve the sustainability of the program and reduce the future costs of the Census. Changes such as 40 per cent less field staff and significantly reduced level of paper form printing will change the risk profile and mitigation options compared with previous censuses.
Strategic developments planned include: a revised field model; a smarter eCensus; optimised topics; intelligent processing systems; and metadata and standards to support increasingly flexible data for users. These key directions are in line with strategic directions of the ABS and complement work being done in the ABS 2017 program. Where possible, new infrastructure will be developed in a way that will also satisfy other ABS statistical needs. For example, the address register developed for use in the Census will also be used in future household surveys selection, thus maximising the utility of the infrastructure.
- Demands for statistical data integration
Data integration is a major priority for the ABS and wider National Statistical System as the demand for, and activities associated with, linking social, economic and environmental datasets increase across Australian Governments.
There is a strong need for consistent governance, methods, policies and protocols around data integration to:
- maximise benefits from the use of data, in a controlled and secure manner, from portfolios such as health, education, migration and family support;
- minimise risks associated with poorly managed data linkage activities on datasets of national significance such as the Census of Population and Housing; and
- maintain the trust of the broader community in the collection and use of an individual’s data.
A Cross Portfolio Statistical Data Integration Oversight Board was established in late 2010 to oversee the application of high level principles for the integration of Commonwealth data. The Australian Statistician chairs the Board and membership includes the ABS and Secretaries of the Department of Health and Ageing, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Commonwealth Portfolio Secretaries also agreed to fund a small Secretariat, to be housed in the ABS, to support the Oversight Board and implement other elements of an agreed set of governance and institutional arrangements including best practice guidelines and a public register and complaints mechanism for data integration projects involving Commonwealth data.
- Essential Statistical Assets for Australia
In November 2010, the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC) endorsed the ABS to “identify in highly consultative way a preliminary list of Essential Statistical Assets (ESA) for Australia regardless of the organisations that produce them”. The ABS recognises that it is not the only producer of highly important official statistical information for policy formulation and evaluation, and the effective delivery of community services. ESA has been developed over the last two years as part of the ABS’s strategy to support the National Statistical Service (NSS).
The purpose of the list is to separate the core set of essential statistical assets from the number of other official statistics generated by governments and use it to prioritise investment in statistical assets. This broader set of statistics is still important and will continue to be produced, managed and invested in when needed. Distinguishing those statistical assets that are “essential” aims to identify where ongoing investment will yield the greatest benefit.
Developing a list of agreed essential statistical assets and their underlying datasets, would enable the Australian Government, in partnership with state and territory governments, to pursue the following objectives:
i. The efficient use of government resources by identifying areas of duplication and underutilisation
ii. Ensuring that the critically important information (statistics/data) are of sufficient quality and
iii. Identification of critical information gaps, so that these can be addressed.
These objectives align closely with section 6(c) of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975. The potential outcomes from undertaking such an initiative have been discussed as part of the Australian Statistician’s regular engagement process with a range of heads of government agencies at the Commonwealth, state and territory level, and has been met with a strong degree of support.
The ABS has now developed a preliminary list to provide a springboard for consultation with the community and stakeholders who produce and/or use official statistics to identify those statistics considered essential for the nation. To support this a public consultation paper, along with the preliminary list, was released on the NSS website (www.nss.gov.au) on 29 May 2012, inviting public feedback to complement other consultation mechanisms that will be pursued by the ABS.
- Measures of Australia’s Progress
Setting out a suite of indicators that aim to measure a country’s progress continues to be an important and challenging task for national statistical agencies. Measures of Australia’s Progress is a flagship statistical project that aims to provide Australians with accessible, quality measures of societal progress. To do this, the ABS has engaged in an extensive consultation process to identify what societal progress means to Australians. The outcomes of this consultation will be reported in 2012–13 to the fourth OECD World Forum on the Progress of Societies to be held in New Delhi, India in October 2012.
Consultation outcomes will contribute to further development of the conceptual foundation for progress, and provide the basis of the next version of the Measures of Australia’s Progress publication.