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The ABS operates in a complex environment characterised by increasing demand for faster and richer data, and a relative shortage of data-skilled people.
In 2020–21, the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to have a profound impact on Australia’s economy and society. The ABS is playing a pivotal role in measuring the impact of the pandemic with a range of high frequency statistical products that will continue to inform its social and economic impact.
The ABS has a continuing obligation to deliver core statistical products that are critical to government, business and the Australian community. This necessitates the direct collection of household and other survey data not available through other means.
In early 2020, the ABS ceased face-to-face household interviews to protect the health and safety of households and staff, and delayed some business surveys to reduce the reporting requirements on businesses. This provided the opportunity to fast track the use of alternative ways to collect information, such as e-forms, and test the quality and availability of other data sources. In 2020–21, the ABS will continue to respond to changes in the external environment and resume face-to-face interviews when it is safe to do so.
Collecting data from households is becoming more challenging and expensive as the attitudes and lifestyle habits of individuals and families change over time. People are more mobile and their contact details change more frequently. The ABS is making better use of technology to contact, identify, and engage survey participants remotely in order to respond to these changes.
Using big data provides the ABS with opportunities to deliver more granular statistical products more frequently, to meet some of the increased demand for its data and statistical products. The ABS continues to invest in international best-practice methods for the secure storage, processing and dissemination of statistics.
The ABS is a leader in Australia’s data environment and is leading the development of a data profession for the Australian Public Service (APS). In September 2020, the Australian Statistician was appointed Head of the Data Profession. The APS Data Profession seeks to lift the capability of the APS workforce to generate deeper insights to inform decision-making in policy development, program management and service delivery.
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