Statistics Centre - Abu Dhabi (SCAD) inaugurated on Monday a series of specialized lectures as part of the centre’s strategic initiative for "Promotion of Statistical Awareness". The series started with a lecture on "Official Statistics" in the Falcon conference room at the Fairmont Bab Albahr Hotel - Abu Dhabi, presented by HE Brian Pink, Australian Statistician and head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), who is currently on an official visit to Abu Dhabi. The lecture was attended by HE Butti Ahmed Mohammed Bin Butti Al Qubaisi, Director-General of Statistics Centre - Abu Dhabi, SCAD’s senior officials and representatives from a number of government departments from Abu Dhabi and other emirates of the UAE Federation.
SCAD welcomed the lecturer, who is one of Australia’s outstanding statistical experts. Mr. Pink previously held several positions including the Head of Australia’s Mission the United Nations’ Statistical Commission. SCAD explained that the purpose of the lecture is to highlight the importance of statistics as a source of government data, and its role in supporting the culture of excellence among both individuals and establishments.
The lecture focused on four main themes, beginning with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the key features of the national statistical system in Australia, providing an overview of the objectives, governance structure and the overall strategy for the ABS.
Mr. Pink indicated that the ABS consists of several advisory and executive bodies and that the bureau’s operation is governed by an act issued in 1957 and followed by another act passed the Australian Parliament in the mid-seventies, setting out the functions and responsibilities of the bureau. This empowered the ABS to foster close relationships of cooperation with the federal government and with local governments in Australia, as well as with the private sector, enabling the Bureau to play a vital role in the production of data and the training of government officials in support of development in Australia.
Mr. Pink remarked that the bureau’s modus operandi and the multiplicity of statistical sources it deals with have helped it carry out its development role. Prominent among these stakeholders are the Australian Government Statistical Forum (AGSF), which meets semi-annually to discuss the agenda set for official statistics, a non-governmental statistical forum comprising some 40 entities and committees from all sectors of the Australian society, business and non-governmental organizations, to discuss their views and their needs of economic-, social-, labor- and other statistics. He adding one of the tools used recently was bilateral meetings with head of departments every 6 or 9 months, to help the Bureau develop a mechanism of action every ten years, and report to the government agencies concerned about the activities and achievements of the ABS and the bodies under its purview.
The lecturer also reviewed the development and planning of the population and housing census project in Australia, which is scheduled for 9 August, 2011, pointing out the particular importance of this census, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of the first Census in Australia in 1911. The significance of the upcoming census also lies in the fact that it will involve enumeration of the population and housing to provide up-to-date information on the size and characteristics of the population, the indigenous people, immigrants, refugees and nomads, in addition to other classifications of the composition of the Australian society. The proportion of indigenous peoples for instance, was found to be 2% in some areas according to the census of 2006, which was regarded as a disturbing indicator that necessitated the development plans in response. The census also detailed demographic characteristics of this population structure and geographical distribution of the inhabitants, even in the remote areas and islands of Australia.
Since 2001, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has introduced the so-called "time capsule", which includes statistics and data belonging to people who prefer to keep it confidential during their lifetime by retaining such name-identified information in the national archive for 99 years, noting that the percentage of those who chose this capsule grew slightly from 53% in the 2001 census to 56% in the 2006 census, i.e. the proportion remained nearly constant.
Elaborating further on the census, Mr. Pink mentioned that a budget of AUD 400 million has been allocated for this project, adding that the per capita cost of the census is estimated at AUD 19. The planned census is set to be largest such operation ever to be conducted in Australia, involving about 43 thousand staff, targeting the enumeration of 9.5 million dwellings across Australia. Data collection will be either through electronic forms via the Internet or on paper forms, which require a personal visit. The form, he added consists of 50 questions, the same questions of the Australian population censuses for 100 years, with only minor changes to account for some new things in people’s life.
Following the field work stage, the data capture, analysis and documentation, will be conducted by about 800 employees in a span of ten months.
In the third theme of the lecture, Mr. Brian Pink, focused on the experience of the Australian Bureau of Statistics in the use of administrative data for official statistics, and the shift from secondary to strategic use administrative data, and the importance of this in the service of many sectors of the Australian community, such as childhood sector and education, health, security, transportation, etc. The data pertaining to these sectors is obtained from federal and local agencies, and are then reproduce and compared with data from non-government sources to serve the development of these sectors.
The lecturer also touched on the ABS’s dissemination mechanism explaining that the Bureau made significant progress in facilitating access to the official statistics over the past ten years, adding that it took the ABS about 70 years of statistical work to reach this level of expertise.
The lecturer concluded by highlighting the challenges facing statistical work in the first half of the 21st century, pointing out the daunting task of coping with the rapid developments at all levels and the need to act proactively, taking advantage of electronic analysis and classification methods.
Finally the lecturer answered questions from the audience, and praised the achievements of Statistics Centre - Abu Dhabi in the service of development across all sectors, pointing out that the center has recently made vast strides in this regard. Mr. Pink also commended SCAD’s ambitious strategy, noting that the Centre is able to put it into effect if it can maintain its current pace.
In conclusion, HE Butti Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Qubaisi, Director of Statistics Centre - Abu Dhabi thanked the lecturer and the audience, adding that the center looked forward to continued cooperation with the ABS. SCAD’s Director General remarked that the Centre would continue to organize such lectures to support its initiative for promotion of statistical awareness.