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5: Increase the quantity of output, including improving client access to ABS and other statistical information by improving dissemination methods
Performance Measure 5.2: Develop new products and services
In addition to the publications mentioned above, the ABS developed several new products and services during 2000-01 including:
The ABS has also had some important releases of new electronic products and services in 2000-01.
More generally, the range of data available on the ABS website, both free of charge and at cost, has increased substantially with over 36,000 web pages now available.
Performance Measure 5.3: Ensure public accessibility through libraries, the media, etc.
The ABS provides free access to much of its data through the ABS website, public libraries, media releases, media enquiries, and the distribution of ABS reports to media offices and to Members of Parliament. Table 3 below shows the level of media reporting (by medium) over recent years. In 2000-01, there was an increase in reporting across all media. This increase in activity reflects, in part, ABS awareness raising seminars, pre-release notices and media releases/launches on the day of release, keeping in mind that much of the Australian public find out about official statistics through the media.
A specific project during the year involved the facilitation of a joint project between the National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics and the Victorian Office of the ABS, which produced an Internet resource, allowing students to easily access Indigenous statistics.
Performance Measure 5.4: Enhance delivery options using new technology to improve accessibility
ABS promotes the use of new technology to enhance delivery options and to improve accessibility to ABS statistics. The ABS@ and AusStats subscription services provide users with ready access to ABS publications, and to a range of multidimensional datasets in electronic format. The ABS website is one of the most accessed websites in Australia. Its content is continually expanding, with theme and State pages added in 2000-01 which provide easy access to statistical resources related to subjects such as educational services, environment and families.
During 2000-01 the ABS conducted a useability study of the ABS website using cognitive techniques. The study involved a number of people with varying levels of knowledge of the ABS and its website, being asked to complete a range of tasks on the ABS website. While the results were encouraging, the report made some recommendations for improvements to ABS web design. Procedures are in place to follow through on the recommendations.
The ABS has regularly reviewed its client servicing and dissemination strategies in order to maintain pace with technology developments and changing client expectations. In particular, the ABS is meeting changing customer needs by developing new dissemination methods and products which will exploit technological advances including warehousing facilities. The ABS is also improving service delivery and effectiveness through the development of self-help facilities and partnerships with information intermediaries.
During 2000-01, new subscribers to ABS@ were:
In addition, a number of other State and Territory governments and Commonwealth departments have also shown interest in the service.
6: Improve the quality of outputs
Performance Measure 6.1: Achieve or exceed timeliness, statistical reliability, response rate and accuracy objectives
Performance Indicator 6.1.1: Timeliness
The timeliness of ongoing series is measured by the gap between the reference period and the date of publication of results.
The ABS continues to adhere to preannounced release dates and make improvements in the timeliness achieved. Table 4 presents information on timeliness for ABS monthly and quarterly publications for main economic indicator statistics, and other general releases. It indicates that the ABS maintained or improved the average timeliness of monthly and quarterly releases.
Performance Indicator 6.1.2: Statistical reliability
One measurable component of reliability is revisions to data. Revisions are generally measured by their size and frequency over time. The ABS aims to minimise revisions as much as possible through effective sample and methodological design. It is also ABS policy to inform users of the potential impact of any significant revisions.
During 2000-01, larger than normal revisions were made to core labour force series. These revisions were the result of the implementation of a redesigned questionnaire for the labour force survey to incorporate new international standards.
The impacts of the labour force revisions were presented in two information papers:
The information papers explain that the redesigned questionnaire obtains new or extended information on job tenure, underemployment, hours worked, duration of unemployment, and marginal attachment to the labour force. The format of the questionnaire has been improved, and some question wording updated to improve the efficiency of the survey, enhance the quality of the data collected, and reflect current terminology and labour market conditions. To ensure continuity of time series, selected labour force series have been revised from April 1986 to March 2001 to reflect the impact of the more significant definitional changes. Details of these revisions are contained in the information papers.
In addition, details of any significant revisions to series can be found in ABS publications. More detailed revisions for particular series are also available on request.
Performance Indicator 6.1.3: Response rates
The ABS has consistently had very high response rates in its collections, with the organisation comparing very favourably on this criterion against other international statistical offices. Recent international benchmarking results for the manufacturing survey, the consumer price index, and the household expenditure survey, all demonstrated that the ABS is achieving very good response rates.
Response rates do not vary much over time, so it is appropriate to identify targets for response rates, rather than be concerned with small changes in levels over time. In 2000-01, key ABS economic and social collections met or bettered the very high target response rates set by the organisation. The choice of surveys reflects a cross section of regular key economic indicator series and a range of irregular social surveys.
Performance Indicator 6.1.4: Accuracy
All ABS outputs maintain high levels of accuracy in all tables, graphs and text. It is ABS policy that relative standard errors are included in survey publications, along with descriptions of other types of errors to which outputs may be subject.
Included below are descriptions of some indicators of accuracy for a number of major ABS publications. The relative standard error is a useful measure in that it provides an immediate indication of the percentage errors likely to have occurred due to sampling, and thus avoids the need to refer also to the size of the estimate. The tables below present a summary view only, with more details available from the publications, or the concepts, sources, and methods publications associated with the collections themselves.
Performance Measure 6.2: Conduct quality reviews, and implement their recommendations
Performance Indicator 6.2.1: Outline of ABS statistical reviews
The ABS reviews its statistical collections regularly to ensure that its statistics are of good quality. Some reviews cover all aspects of a particular collection, from user requirements, through to data collection, processing, analysis and dissemination. Other reviews focus on particular elements of collections, such as the methodology.
In reviews of statistical collections, external users are widely consulted and, in some instances, external users assist the review team. Internal reviews cover both the effectiveness and efficiency of various ABS activities.
Several reviews commenced, or were completed, in 2000-01, including reviews of:
The reviews have led to revised collection strategies for each of the programs.
Performance Indicator 6.2.2: Innovative practices - improvements to existing collections as a result of research and development
Apart from the ongoing reviews of ABS statistical collections, research and development in subject matter areas continues to result in innovative practices for the collection and compilation of data.
Two significant developments in 2000-01 relate to:
During 2000-01, a number of ABS statistical collections and classification systems benefited from the introduction of The New Tax System and the associated changes to statistical reporting that it allowed.
Improvements were made to:
These developments have reduced provider load during 2000-01. More details on the impact of taxation data on economic statistics can be found in Chapter 6.
The benefits of the CAI methodology are that it provides for improved workload management and the ability to conduct multiple supplementary surveys.
7: Achievement of cost effective outputs
Performance Measure 7.1: Conduct efficiency reviews and audits, and implement their recommendations
Pages 22-24 discuss the role of the ABS Audit Committee and the nature of internal and external scrutiny of ABS operations.
Major reviews completed during 2000-01 which addressed efficiency issues included:
These reviews resulted in:
A number of other efficiency reviews are in progress for a range of statistical collections and corporate service functions. These reviews aim to achieve efficiency gains via improvements to collection strategies, methodologies, use of IT, and/or substituting/complementing existing data with administrative data sources.
Performance Measure 7.2: Test operating efficiencies of statistical activities by benchmarking internally and externally
Benchmarking is a key part of the ABS strategy to assess the value for money of its statistical and non-statistical outputs, to understand and learn from best practice, and to improve performance. The ABS views the process of benchmarking as an ongoing exercise, which enables the organisation to achieve continuous improvement across a variety of its outputs.
A number of benchmarking studies are currently being undertaken in the ABS, including:
Comparisons between ABS statistical collections
Internal benchmarking studies during 2000-01 involved the following collections:
These studies produced two main outcomes: the first being the formulation of the financial framework and performance measures, and the development of a framework for future benchmarking exercises; the second was the opportunity for collection areas to share elements of better practice, including more cost effective ways of undertaking collection activities.
Comparisons between the operations of a number of international statistical agencies and the ABS
International benchmarking studies during 2000-01 involved the following collections:
Outcomes from the studies were:
The studies also showed the ABS put more effort into data quality than the organisations it was comparing with.
In addition, the ABS is currently involved in human resource and financial services benchmarking studies conducted by the Australian National Audit Office. Further, the Technology Services Division is continuing to be involved in a range of Gartner Group benchmarking studies. They show the ABS is very efficient in its management and use of technology.
Performance Measure 7.3: Market test a number of non-statistical activities to identify possible outsourcing opportunities
The ABS is currently benchmarking several corporate service functions with a view to market testing and outsourcing as appropriate. The organisation, has outsourced a number of key functions in recent years including printing and distribution services, a range of training courses related to information technology, leadership and management training, and internal audit. The ABS will continue to investigate additional outsourcing opportunities as they arise.
Performance Measure 7.4: Continual reductions in the aggregate load placed on all businesses
The following table shows the provider load (measured in thousands of hours taken to complete statistical forms) imposed on businesses from 1997-98 to 2000-01.
Under the Commonwealth Government’s 1996 Small Business Deregulation Task Force, the ABS was committed to a 20% reduction in provider load. This target has been substantially exceeded. The overall reduction since 1995-96 is 43% for all businesses and 45% for the small business sector.
These reductions have been achieved through the introduction of a wide range of long term initiatives affecting nearly all business collections. The most notable of these include: