1006.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics - Forward Work Program, 2019-20  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/10/2019   
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2.2 Strategic objective two: partnerships to enable better decisions

2.2.1 Maintaining community trust

The ABS relies on the trust of households, businesses and other data suppliers to provide their information to the ABS. Without this trust the ABS could not produce the statistics to inform important decisions.

The ABS professionally and transparently uses information provided to produce official statistics. Information is made available to expert analysts and researchers, while protecting the secrecy of individuals’ and business’ information. Access to detailed microdata, including integrated data assets, is carefully managed to protect privacy and confidentiality while enabling valuable research and evaluation of public policy issues.

Community trust in the quality and integrity of ABS statistics remains high. In 2020 ABS will again commission an external research agency to conduct a Community Trust in ABS Statistics Survey. This survey was previously conducted in 2010 and 2015. Its purpose is to measure the current levels of trust in the ABS and its products among the general community and informed users of statistics.

2.2.2 Making it easier to provide information to the ABS

The quality of the service experience we deliver to the community matters. The ABS is continuing to transform our approach to data collection to improve the experience of those providing information to the ABS.

In 2019-20, more businesses and households will be able to take advantage of the ABS’ new data acquisition platform.

The adoption of new infrastructure will allow the ABS to remove paper survey form obligations from a number of businesses, with our first adopters scheduled to transition in 2019-20. For other business surveys that are already digital, they will benefit from an improved provider experience and smarter digital forms.

Businesses and organisations that provide the ABS with administrative data files will also progressively move to the new platform, which provides them with a single view across their interactions with the ABS and a greater ability to self-service. The new platform for collecting administrative data files is helping remove the need for physical transfer of data on digital media, as well as other security enhancements.

For households completing ABS surveys, e-form submission that is easier and quicker will gradually become available. The Survey of Income and Housing and the General Social Survey were the first household surveys to offer an e-form option using the ABS’ new data acquisition digital solution (see Box 6).

2.2.3 Making it easier to use ABS statistics

As part of its modernisation, the ABS is designing a new website to make it easier to find, understand and use ABS information. A beta website was launched in 2018-19 to gather feedback from customers to support the development of the new website. In 2019-20 the focus is to design and build the new website based on this feedback. The ABS will support stakeholders through the transition to a new website by having a fully functional beta website in parallel to the current website.

BOX 6: Benefits of new infrastructure


Household surveys
  • Introduction of web reporting
  • Improved communication materials
  • continued support for telephone and face to face interviewing
  • More reliable and secure systems

Business surveys
  • Removal of paper survey forms
  • Enhanced web reporting with increased data validation
  • Digital contact and reminders to support timely participation
  • More reliable and secure systems

Administrative data providers
  • Single view of all ABS collections
  • Ability to self service
  • Removal of physical digital media transfers
  • More reliable and secure systems

The ABS is also developing Application Programmable Interfaces (API) services to enable systematic access to ABS data. In 2018-19 the ABS Indicator API was released to provide market moving economic statistics to approved media customers at the time of official release. In 2019-20 the ABS Data API will be released, providing an alternative channel to access complete datasets for key economic indicators at the same time they are released to the ABS website.

An ongoing challenge for the ABS is how to enable access to more detailed and bespoke datasets that meet specific stakeholders’ needs that cannot be met through publicly releasing information. Safe and secure access to confidentialised data is essential to maximise the data’s public value.

While TableBuilder3 will remain the primary means for using microdata to build customised statistical tables (with over 1 million user sessions in 2018-19), the ABS is testing new innovative solutions to cater to highly sophisticated users of microdata.

In 2018-19, the ABS DataLab was launched. There are currently over 2,000 authorised users of the ABS DataLab, with 81% of those users from the government sector and the remainder from the academic sector. A focus in 2019-20 will be to deliver solutions that allow the DataLab facility to continue to meet growing demand and expected service levels.

DataLab (as at August 2019):
  • Total number of Organisations registered in 2018:138
  • Total number of Organisations registered in 2019:174
  • Number of registered users (excludes ABS) in 2018: 1,417
  • Number of registered users (excludes ABS) in 2019: 2,066
  • Number of Datasets available in 2018: 248
  • Number of Datasets available in 2019: 344
  • Top Dataset: National Health Survey
  • Other heavily used Datasets: Multi Agency Data Integration Project, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, and Business Longitudinal Analysis Data Environment (BLADE)

Who is using DataLab:
  • Government: 81%
  • Education: 19%
  • Commercial organisations: 0%
  • Non-profit organisations: 0%
  • Other: 0%

TableBuilder (as at August 2019):
  • Total number of Organisations registered: 2,607
  • Number of registered users (excludes ABS): 91,297
  • Number of Datasets available: 139
  • Top Dataset: Census 2011 and 2016
  • Other heavily used Datasets: Australian Census and Migrants Integrated Dataset, 2016 and Survey of Income and Housing

Who is using TableBuilder:
  • Government: 40%
  • Education: 34%
  • Commercial organisations: 20%
  • Non-profit organisations: 5%
  • Other: 1%

(3) TableBuilder is an online application that enables customers to interact and create customised tabular outputs from ABS data.

2.2.4 Collaborating with stakeholders

Engaging, partnering and collaborating provides benefits to the ABS and data users. Through these interactions, the ABS better understands data needs and stakeholders gain a better understanding of and access to the data that is available, stakeholders also gain access to ABS data capability.

Collaboration and partnership will continue to be a focus in 2019-20. A survey of ABS stakeholders conducted in May 2019 found that:
  • 96% of stakeholders agreed or strongly agreed that the ABS is a credible source of data and information;
  • 87% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that they were satisfied with their relationship with the ABS; and
  • 72% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the ABS collaborates effectively with its stakeholders and that trust in ABS data continues to remain high.

A number of formal and semi-formal advisory groups have been established as a mechanism for external advice on the shape of the statistical program, priorities, innovations and enhancements. Membership typically comprises representatives from Commonwealth agencies, state and territory government agencies, academia, private sector organisations and industry/community organisations (see Box 7).

The ABS has increased representation of external experts in its governance structure. Three experts from the private sector, state government, other large service delivery agencies, are members on each of the 2021 Census and SBTP Boards.

The ABS has a network of Strategic Relationship Managers out posted to state and territory Treasuries or Premiers departments to facilitate consultation and collaboration. ABS staff are also out posted to a range of Commonwealth agencies including Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), Treasury, Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Department of Environment and Energy (DoEE), Department of Social Services (DSS), Department of Health and Department of Education.

In return agencies are increasingly embedding staff with the ABS to either make use of unpublished data (for example, the RBA work on wages) or to contribute an external perspective to the development of ABS statistics (for example, Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business in relation to the development of the Labour Account).

BOX 7: ABS Statistical Advisory Groups

Australian Statistics Advisory Council: ASAC is the ABS’s primary advisory group, established through and with its functions outlined in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975.

Economic Statistics Advisory Group: ESAG comprises membership from Departments of: Treasury, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Industry, Innovation and Science, NSW Treasury as well as Parliamentary Services, Grattan Institute, Productivity Commission, Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), University of NSW, and Deakin University. ESAG provides provide feedback on developments in the ABS in the field of economic statistics

Population and Social Statistics Advisory Group: PSSAG comprises membership from Departments of Education, Treasury, Home Affairs, Social Services, Prime Minister and Cabinet, NSW Families and Communities and Victorian Health and Human Service as well as the Australian National University, Charles Darwin University, Australian Council of Social Services and Uniting Care Australia. PSSAG provides strategic advice on the demographic and social statistical program.

Labour Statistics Advisory Group: LSAG comprises membership from Departments of: Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Education, Home Affairs, Social Services, Treasury, ACT Treasury, South Australian Premier and Cabinet , Treasury and Finance Victoria, Western Australia Treasury, Northern Territory Treasury, Queensland Treasury, New South Wales Treasury and Tasmania Treasury as well as Reserve Bank of Australia, Productivity Commission, Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Fair Work Commission, Parliamentary Library, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Council of Trade Unions, Flinders University, University of New South Wales and Melbourne University. It advises on the labour statistics program.

Regional Statistics and Agricultural Advisory Group: RSAAG was recently established with membership from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Department of the Environment and Energy, Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development, Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia, National Farmers Federation, Meat and Livestock Australia, Cotton Research and Development Corporation, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Forestry and Deakin University. RSAAG will guide directions for regional, infrastructure, agriculture and environment statistics.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Roundtable: is a senior advisory group with membership from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across Australia, including the Torres Strait with extensive experience working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

2.2.5 Collaboration with Academics and scientific organisations

The ABS collaborates with Australian Universities and scientific organisation to facilitate effective use of ABS data by academics and to leverage academic expertise in ABS work program and capability building.

Deakin University Partnership: began in 2016 when the ABS National Data Acquisition Centre was established in the Deakin Waterfront Campus. The ABS has gained access to contemporary academic thinking on issues such as operational organisational design and approaches to improve response rates from providers of information. Deakin, in turn, has been exposed to the real world issues faced by National Statistical Organisations. This relationship will continue, including through the offer of ABS internships to give Deakin students industry experience.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS): the ABS is an official partner of the ACEMS and under this partnership, the ABS is exploring and developing machine learning solutions with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Monash University, both nodes of ACEMS.

Australian National University: and the ABS jointly offers an ANU course in environmental economic accounting, and collaborates with the ANU in analysing mortality data. Senior ABS and ANU representatives are working to build a framework for cooperating in statistical training; secondments and internships; data integration; and joint projects. A wide range of possible areas to work on have been identified, including labour mobility; survey methods; data linking; spatial modelling; missing data and disclosure control.

CSIRO and Geoscience Australia: both have projects in partnership with the ABS, including:
  • Development of a Location Index API to seamlessly integrate data on people, business and the environment;
  • A Data61 geospatial project that uses sophisticated modelling to dynamically translate data onto different geographies;
  • A Data61 prototype Protari API that is being used by researchers to analyse data from the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP);
  • Leveraging ABS methodologists to assist on differential privacy (an emerging approach to data confidentiality);
  • The use of satellite imagery from Geoscience’s “Earth Observations” platform to inform the accuracy of the ABS address register through the use of Image Recognition machine learning.

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