1006.0 - Forward Work Program, 2013-14 to 2016-17  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/06/2013   
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Contents >> General Information >> ABS goals, strategies and key projects


The ABS establishes its work program in response to current and emerging statistical priorities, and in the context of the ABS mission and corporate plan. To help in prioritising and shaping its forward work program, the ABS has identified four overarching goals in its corporate plan. The strategies to achieve each goal underpin the forward work program and the organisation’s planning mechanisms.


  • deliver high quality, objective and flexible official statistics
  • improve the accessibility, timeliness and relevance of Australia’s statistical information
  • improve the management and informed use of official statistical information.
Outcome Timely high quality statistical information that is readily accessible.
  • effectively engage with providers
  • develop solutions that maintain confidentiality but unlock the value of information.
Outcome Engaged, responsive and supportive providers who trust the ABS.
  • better prepare our people for the future
  • transform our business systems and processes
  • foster our ability to innovate.
Outcome A capable, innovative and productive organisation.
  • enhance the coordination of, and investment in, the National Statistical Service
  • build strong statistical capacity and capability domestically and within Asia and the Pacific region
  • shape and influence national and international discussions regarding statistical frameworks and policies.
Outcome The ABS is influential and sought after for independent information, advice and expertise.


Transforming the way we collect, manage and deliver information: the ABS 2017 Program

The ABS commenced planning its business and information management transformation program in 2010. This program, which will be undertaken in a number of phases, represents the most strategic initiative to update statistical business processes and information management infrastructure within the ABS since the 1970s. In early 2012, the ABS 2017 Group was formed to lead the transformation of the way that the ABS collects, collates, manages, uses, and disseminates statistical information.

This transformation will provide our stakeholders with access to statistical information that is easy to find and use, relatable and comparable. The ABS will achieve this by upgrading infrastructure, refining the ways data is acquired, and modernising the ways it documents, processes, and disseminates statistical information to clients.

To improve the management of the statistical information which the ABS currently delivers, the ABS is developing a coherent and integrated environment for the life-cycle management of statistical data, which will be significantly more responsive and adaptable than current approaches and systems allow. This includes the harmonisation of statistical processes, methods, information management approaches and supporting ICT applications, followed by training in the new approaches, and the migration of processes and data from the existing to the new environment.

Australia is not alone in facing demands for better managed statistical information. Many other countries face the same challenges. The harmonisation of statistical production and information management approaches needed within the ABS are also needed by many other National Statistical Offices (NSOs). The ABS is collaborating with other NSOs to develop the next generation of statistical infrastructure. Four collaborative projects are currently underway (business architecture; administrative data; platforms for collection; and innovation in dissemination).

Delivering a successful predominantly digital Census in 2016

Australia's seventeenth national Census of Population and Housing, to be held in August 2016, will be significantly different from the previous Censuses. The 2016 Census will be the first Census with a majority of responses received online, with a target of six and a half million households utilising the eCensus, and the first Census that the majority of households are contacted via mail rather than by a Census collector. These major changes are necessary to ensure the long term sustainability of the Census program and to establish a foundation for future development and innovation that takes full advantage of the technology that is available and eagerly adopted within Australia.

The key goals for the 2016 Census are to:
  • maintain and make targeted improvements to the coverage of the population overall, including at the small area level and for specific population groups
  • maximise the value of the Census by improving data quality (relevance, timeliness, accuracy, coherence, interpretability, accessibility)
  • increase the efficiency of operations throughout the end-to-end Census process
  • contribute to the sustainability of the ABS and the Census program
  • protect the privacy of all Australians.
    A review of all topics is a priority for the 2016 Census to ensure the continuing relevance of the Census in contemporary Australia. The demand for new topics in the 2016 Census will be high, however increases to the Census form need to be balanced against the load that this would create on every Australian and the costs of increases. After a public consultation process in 2012-13, the ABS will formulate recommendations on the topics for inclusion in the 2016 Census later in 2013 for consideration by the Australian Statistics Advisory Council and the government.

    In order to support the significant change in Census operations in 2016 the ABS needs to develop new capabilities in relation to field force management and coordination, mechanisms and systems to engage most citizens online, an up-to-date and accurate national residential address list, real-time monitoring of Census operations and a smarter online form (the eCensus). This capability development will be supported with an annual field testing program that will allow new processes, systems and methodologies to be tested in the real world and refined before they are required for operation in 2016.

    Demands for data integration for statistical and research purposes

    Data integration is a major priority for the Commonwealth Government, the ABS and for the wider National Statistical System as demand increases for analyses of integrated social, economic and environmental datasets for statistical and research purposes.
    There is a strong need for consistent governance, methods, policies and protocols around data integration to:
    • maximise benefits from the use of data, in a controlled and secure manner
    • minimise risks associated with data integration activities on datasets of national significance such as the Census of Population and Housing
    • maintain the trust of the broader community in the collection and use by the Australian Government of personal and business data.

    A Cross Portfolio Data Integration Oversight Board (the Board) was established in late 2010 to oversee the application of high level principles for the integration of Commonwealth data. The Australian Statistician chairs the Board and membership includes the ABS and Secretaries of the Department of Health and Ageing, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

    Commonwealth Portfolio Secretaries also agreed to fund a small Secretariat, housed in the ABS, to support the Board and implement other elements of an agreed set of governance and institutional arrangements including best practice guidelines and a public register and complaints mechanism for data integration projects involving Commonwealth data.

    The ABS also undertakes data integration for statistical and research purposes directly as an accredited Integrating Authority. The ABS program of data linkage projects continues to grow. Outcomes from a range of 2011 Census Data Enhancement projects will be released over the next few years, including the second wave of a 5% Statistical Longitudinal Census Dataset in December 2013.

    Essential Statistical Assets for Australia

    In November 2010, the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC) endorsed the ABS to “identify in a highly consultative way a preliminary list of Essential Statistical Assets (ESA) for Australia regardless of the organisations that produce them”. The ABS recognises that it is not the only producer of highly important official statistical information for policy formulation and evaluation, the effective delivery of community services and to more generally inform Australian society. ESA has been developed over the last two years as part of the ABS strategy to support the National Statistical Service (NSS).

    The aim of the ESA for Australia initiative is to allow for effective prioritisation of investment, focus and effort within the NSS, by identifying those essential statistical assets which are critical to decision-making in a complex and sometimes fragmented information environment across Australia.

    There are four phases in the overall initiative:
    • phase 1 – developing the 2013 list of ESA for Australia
    • phase 2 – assessing the quality of the assets present on the list of ESA for Australia
    • phase 3 – developing a list of Essential Statistical Infrastructure
    • phase 4 – identifying and pursuing future investment priorities.

    The purpose of the list is to separate the core set of essential statistical assets from the number of other official statistics generated by governments and use it to prioritise investment in statistical assets. This broader set of statistics is still important and will continue to be produced, managed and invested in when needed. Distinguishing those statistical assets that are “essential” aims to identify where ongoing investment will yield the greatest benefit.

    Phase one of the initiative, the 2013 list of Essential Statistical Assets for Australia (ABS cat. no. 1395.0) was launched at the NatStats 2013 conference and has received strong support from the statistical community. The focus over the next two years will be progressing phase two (quality assessment and gap analysis of the ESA for Australia list) and phase three (identifying Australia's essential statistical infrastructure).

    Measures of Australia’s Progress

    Measuring progress is one of the most important tasks a national statistical agency undertakes. Measures of Australia’s Progress (MAP) brings together statistics about society, the economy and the environment to provide insight into national progress. MAP assists Australians to answer the question, 'Is life in Australia getting better?'

    The ABS keeps MAP relevant and at the forefront of measuring progress both nationally and internationally. A recent major initiative is the extensive MAP consultation undertaken in 2011-12, which asked people about their aspirations for national progress. This process also allowed us to check, a decade on from the first MAP release, that we are still measuring what is most important to Australians for progress. The outcomes of this consultation were reported in Measures of Australia's progress - Aspirations for our nation: a conversation with Australians about progress (ABS cat. no. 1370.0.00.002). A summary of the process was presented to the fourth OECD World Forum on the Progress of Societies in New Delhi, India in October 2012.

    The results of the consultation process will be used as the basis for a refreshed MAP product. The addition of a fourth domain 'Governance', a significantly expanded Environment domain and an enlarged dashboard reflect the changing attitudes of Australians about what aspects of life are important to them. Themes such as equity and sustainability also emerged strongly, as did ideas of subjective well-being, such as 'Enriched lives'. The 2013 release of MAP will put measures against as many of the newly emerging ideas as is feasible.

    The major milestones for MAP in 2013 will be the release of an Information Paper in late June to expose the list of proposed indicators. Feedback from this process will be taken on board for the upcoming and subsequent releases of MAP. The second key milestone will be the release of the refreshed product in November 2013.

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