1504.0 - Methodological News, Sep 2011  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/09/2011   
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Google’s Chief Economist visits the ABS

On ABS invitation, Professor Hal Varian, the Chief Economist of Google, visited the ABS in early July. Professor Varian's visit coincided with a trip to Australia for the Australian Conference of Economists in Canberra, where he was a keynote speaker.

During his visit, Professor Varian gave a seminar, titled “Predicting the Present with Google Trends” at ABS, and met with Brian Pink and senior executives. In his seminar, Professor Varian illustrated how query data may be used to predict economic activities. He explained how Google Trends provide daily and weekly reports on the volume of queries related to various industries and this query data may be correlated with the current level of economic activity in given industries and thus may be helpful in predicting important economic indicators. He discussed the research tools used in Google, such as Kalman techniques, Bayesian Model Averaging, Spike and slab and horizontal regression. Professor Varian also contrasted privately owned high-frequency/real time data with government agencies’ accurately constructed but low frequency data, and discussed the challenges around integrating private sector real-time information with traditional government statistics.

The meetings between Professor Varian and ABS involved discussions around Google’s approach and experience with data management, and created potential for future collaboration with Google on data management issues.

The visit was a good opportunity for the ABS to discuss the experiences of Google and it commenced what can hopefully become an ongoing dialogue between the two organisations.

For more information about Professor Hal Varian’s visit to the ABS or the seminar presented at the ABS, please contact Gokay Saher on (02) 6252 6209 or gokay.saher@abs.gov.au