The increasingly diverse and rapidly changing environment of statistical information presents both significant opportunities and challenges for government agencies responsible for producing official statistics, including the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as Australia’s national statistical office.
Advances in technology in the lives of Australian people and businesses provide new opportunities for collecting statistical information, and increasing electronic interactions between the community and government provides exciting opportunities for enhancing the statistical potential of information held by government agencies.
Australia has a world class statistical system. However, there is increasing demand for more timely and comprehensive information across the economy, environment and society to inform complex public policy challenges, to enhance service delivery and to inform Australians on their progress. To meet this challenge, government agencies need to continue to work together to improve the national statistical system. Under its legislation, the ABS has a role to coordinate the statistical activities of official bodies, which underpins the National Statistical Service.
Against this backdrop of opportunities and challenges, it is critical that governments’ investments in official statistics are effectively targeted to achieve the greatest benefit. The Essential Statistical Assets (ESA) for Australia initiative supports this, by identifying those statistics that are critical to decision making in Australia. In doing so, the ESA for Australia initiative can identify critical data gaps so they can be addressed, help ensure that critically important statistics are of sufficient quality, and enhance the effectiveness of the national statistical system by helping to identify areas of underutilisation and potential duplication.
In consultation with other producers of statistics and with a wide range of government and non-government users of statistics, the ABS has developed this first 2013 list of ESA for Australia, which is presented in this paper. The 2013 list of ESA for Australia has been endorsed by the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC), which is the peak body for advising the Australian Government on the national statistical system.
In developing a list of essential statistical assets, the inevitable question is what of the statistics that are not on the list? I would like to stress that there are many important statistics that are not on the list which play a significant role in decision making, and the ESA for Australia initiative should not be seen as a mechanism for determining statistics that are no longer needed. Instead, the focus of the initiative is on enhancing the statistical system by guiding future investments into the system.
A number of statistics on the list, and many of the data sets that underpin statistics on the list, have custodians other than the ABS. The ABS has no direct role in determining investments in these but will aim to continue to work with the custodians to ensure that the essential statistics they have responsibility for meet their needs and the wider community’s needs.
The ABS would like to thank everyone who participated in the ESA for Australia consultation process. We appreciate the feedback, which was critical to the development of the list. The process also provided an important opportunity to discuss, with a wide range of stakeholders, the critical importance of high quality, high integrity statistics to the community to inform debate and decision making.