ABS exploring new data sources to inform official statistics in response to COVID-19

The ABS is exploring administrative and transactions data from the public and private sector to inform official social and economic statistics in response to COVID-19.

Of particular interest is the significant potential for aggregated, de-identified transactions data from major banks to generate public value by informing official ABS estimates of business sales, household consumption and Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and assist in understanding the evolution of the Australian economy.

The ABS is discussing the supply and use of the data with major banks and the Australian Banking Association (ABA).

CEO of the ABA, Anna Bligh, said “the industry recognises the importance of data to help inform not just our response, but a whole of economy response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are right behind the efforts of the ABS during this time and support our members actively providing up to date data across the sector.”

Data from major banks will be used for six months to inform official statistics in response to COVID-19, after which arrangements will be reviewed. Data received will not contain information about individuals, will only be accessed by ABS staff and will not be shared with anyone outside the ABS.

The ABS is also assessing the feasibility of using energy consumption data, communication and internet usage data to inform official statistics.

New data sources are already generating extremely valuable insights. The ABS is now publishing fortnightly information about Australian jobs and wages utilising data sourced from the ATO’s Single Touch Payroll system.

The ABS has also relied on supermarket transactions data in the compilation of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) since 2014. These data are de-identified – they do not contain information about individuals.

The ABS is committed to upholding the privacy, confidentiality and security of the information it collects. The ABS is an independent statutory authority established by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 and is well positioned in the Commonwealth to collect this information.

The ABS will make further announcements about new data sources over coming months.

Dr David Gruen
Australian Statistician
22 May, 2020

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