20 October 2015: Second World Statistics Day 2015 by

Dr. Amara Satharasinghe, Director General

Department of Census and Statistics


The United Nations General Assembly, in its 69th regular session held in New York City in June 2015, adopted a resolution designating 20 October 2015 as World Statistics Day (WSD), under the general theme “Better data. Better lives”. In addition, the General Assembly invited all member states to celebrate World Statistics Day on 20 October every five years. The adoption of this resolution comes as recognition of the international community of the importance of statistical data in formulating sustainable development strategies, and monitoring progress made by countries towards achieving national and international development goals; particularly that related to Post-2015 sustainable development agenda, namely, taking decisions and interventions in relevant national development projects in a timely manner.


In its aforementioned resolution, the UN General Assembly called on the member states to observe this day and organize activities with the aim of raising the level of awareness on the importance of data and indicators in the life of communities. It further invited the member states to rely on official statistics as a major source in formulating their policies and driving their investments in social, economic and environmental fields, and to activate the fundamental principles of official statistics adopted by the UN General Assembly.


Statistical organizations throughout the world celebrate World Statistics Day at the national and regional level. WSD 2015, is witnessed worldwide in recognition and gratitude of various countries to their national statistical institutions (NSIs) for the services provided by these institutions, whose main task is producing official statistics and providing them to planners, decision makers, researchers, journalists and media personnel at the national, regional and international levels.


Statistics Day is geared at highlighting statistics and its crucial role across a wide spectrum of activities that range from daily decision-making by individuals, businesses, students, and others, to planning, policy-making and analysis and research activities of governments, academia and other users. The Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) is the key institution of the National Statistical System of Sri Lanka. This year, the DCS organized a number of activities to coincide with the observances under the theme “Better data. Better life”. Official statistics help decision-makers develop informed policies that impact millions of people. Improved data sources, sound statistical methods, new technologies and strengthened statistical systems enable better decisions that eventually result in better lives for all of us. Activities that DCS has organized include Seminar for selected GCE (A/L) students, Special assemblies on WSD in all schools, Seminars at District Secretariats for district level officials and the main event “WSD 2015 forum”.


Enhancing statistical literacy is one of the objectives of the series of events that have been organized by the DCS to observe WSD 2015. Statistical literacy is an extremely important skill to develop because in your day to day life you are constantly exposed to information from surveys, censuses etc. which are designed to tell you something relevant to yourself. For example you might have heard statements like “Inflation is going down, but the prices of consumer items are still going up”. How do you make sense of the information with which you are presented? Statistical literacy provides us with the skills to answer these questions. If you are statistical literate, you will understand that falling inflation does not mean that prices are falling. It means that prices are increasing at a decreasing rate.


It is envisaged that among other benefits, the activities would lead to improved awareness of statistics region-wide and the promotion of the use of statistics in many areas; increased credibility in the statistics that are produced; and investment of resources to reposition and restructure statistical agencies and Celebrating the hard work of employees of the National Statistical Offices. The celebration of the World Statistics Day will acknowledge the service provided by the global statistical system at national and international level, and hope to help strengthen the awareness and trust of the public in official statistics. It serves as an advocacy tool to further support the work of statisticians across different settings, cultures and domains. It will also enhance statistical awareness and sustain confidence of the public in official statistics. Furthermore, this event represents a tool of appreciation and support to the work of statisticians in their various positions.


The DCS has witnessed remarkable advancements since its inception the last 68 years of its age. At present time, the number of employees of the DCS is about 1400. The DCS is extremely proud to celebrate the many achievements of official statistics and the core values of Service, Integrity and Professionalism that has enveloped our work over many decades. We have worked hard to maintain the international standards in the delivery of good quality statistics on the social and economic life. The DCS has focused its attention on strengthening the institutional capacity and to increase the scope of topics of statistics to serve the increased needs of data users.


In line with the adopted policy in covering various aspects of the economic, social and demographic phenomena, the DCS has carried out many surveys, censuses and special studies for the first time during the past few decades for producing official statistics that have not been previously tackled.


Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) is one of the important surveys conducted by the Department once in three years and it is the source of data for estimating poverty levels. Poverty is considered as one of the most important social and economic concern, since it is the cause for the emergence of many other social problems. Poverty levels have now been estimated at Divisional Secretaries division level, which enables identification of poverty pockets fulfilling a long term need.


An Economic Census was conducted for the first time in Sri Lanka, during 2013/14 to measures our nation’s business and economy. It was carried out in order to collect data on the existence, distribution, activities, and characteristics of all economic activities of the country.


The DCS also launched and completed the National Accounts rebasing project recently. This includes not only moving the base year to a more recent one but also introducing methodological improvements, expanding production boundary etc. Preparation of input output table is in progress and this can help decision – takers and policy – makers to make appropriate decisions in addition to identifying the leading sectors in the development process and the growth engines of the Sri Lankan economy.


An essential source of official statistics is the Population and Housing Census which provides governments and the public with valuable data on the size, structure and characteristics of its population. Data capturing of Census of Population and Housing (CPH) – 2012 was done through scanning and all reports have now been released. According to findings of CPH, Sri Lanka is experiencing a demographic dividend. That is the accelerated economic growth that may result from a decline in a country's mortality and fertility and the subsequent change in the age structure of the population. With fewer births each year, a country's young dependent population grows smaller in relation to the working-age population. With fewer people to support, a country has a window of opportunity for rapid economic growth if the right social and economic policies developed and investments made.


DCS take the advantage of constant growth in the development and use of the Web and associated technology to respond to the changing ways that users expect to gain access to official statistics and data. Internet is becoming increasingly important as a dissemination channel for statistical data. The website of the DCS: www.statistics.gov.lk is the main mode of official data dissemination. It includes user friendly interactive meta data bases and indicator data bases. The micro data dissemination policy introduced by the DCS allows the researchers to use micro data of surveys and censuses for their further studies.


As we continue to provide to reliable, good quality data, we would like to thank our many data providers, individuals, householder and business enterprises, for their cooperation and contribution without which we would not have compiled good quality timely data. Without the generous cooperation of the people who participate in our surveys, DCS could not fulfill its mission to provide vital information about our economy and society. Without your participation, these surveys would not accurately reflect the economic and social conditions. If you are asked to participate in our censuses and surveys, please say "Yes". A few moments of your time can mean so much for people just like you.


DCS collect data through censuses and surveys under two ordinances: Statistical Ordinance and Census Act. We understand that confidentiality is extremely important to you. That is why the confidentiality of participants in our surveys and censuses is strictly protected by law. Above acts prohibits DCS from releasing any information that could reveal the identity of you or your business. The information that you provide can only be used to produce statistics. In other words, it can be used to describe or analyze the characteristics only of groups, not individuals, households, or specific organizations. These acts and policies ensure that no one will be able to misuse your information or gain an unfair advantage by obtaining inside information about your business.


Let us join hands to bring about “Better lives” through “Better data”.


Awareness

Celebration of World Statistics Day 2015 programme includes many events targeted at increasing awareness about official statistics amongst various user groups. The event: “WSD forum 2015” will be held on 20th October 2015 at JAIC Hilton Hotel Colombo with the participation of Hon. Niroshan Perera, State Minister of National Policy & Economic Development, as the chief guest.