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Impact: Access to Official Statistics

What are we seeking to achieve?

We are seeking an Official Statistical System in which users are able to access official statistics and have the skills and capability to use them. Access to official statistics is fundamental to an informed democratic society.

Achieving access to official statistics means:

  • Increased awareness among users and potential users of the official statistics available.
  • Increased understanding of how to use official statistics.
  • Increased use of official statistics.
  • Better archival systems for official statistics.

These four objectives are necessary as they represent the broad components of access to official statistics across the Official Statistics System. We work towards these objectives by:

  • Facilitating access to official statistics.
  • Maintaining an enduring national statistical resource.

What will we do to achieve this?

Facilitate access to official statistics

Creating opportunities for people to use official statistics is about providing potential users with the tools and skills by which official statistics can be understood and used. We provide products and services to facilitate access that ranges from high-level statistical data tables to detailed microdata. Our audience model guides the way we reach different user groups and tailor our products. We aim to ensure our dissemination matches our understanding of different audience needs. We seek to effectively reach these audiences within limited resources.

Over the next three years we will:

  • Make more information freely available to users.
  • Continue to provide a wide range of channels for users to access official statistics.
  • Develop and implement a strategy to ensure the effective dissemination of statistics.
  • Build competency in the use and analysis of official statistics.
  • Encourage research in official statistics.

These activities will address the risks that official statistics might not be accessed or used because statistical dissemination and access systems are inadequate, or there are barriers to access, such as high user charges, or users lacking the capacity to use official statistics to best effect.

Make more information freely available

In May 2007 it was announced that a large range of Statistics New Zealand data and products will progressively be made available free of charge during 2007 and 2008.

Budget 2007 allocated $6 million in operating funding over the next four years to the Making More Information Freely Available initiative, plus $2.7 million in capital funding for 2007/08, to make around 250 million pieces of statistical information available for free. It is estimated that once the Budget 2007 initiative is fully implemented, around 90 percent or more of current statistical information will be available on our website for free.


Table 2

Statistical data made free to date  
 Product Release date  
 Digital Boundaries  6 July 2007
 StreetLink  6 July 2007
 Small area population estimates  28 August 2007
 Regional and local statistics – quarterly reviews  21 September 2007
 Household expenditure data  30 November 2007
 Detailed business demography data  26 February 2008

Table 3

 Statistical data to be made free in 2008/09
Product   Release date  

 Redeveloped INFOS database, including data such as:

  • retail and wholesale trade data
  • migration and visitor data
  • detailed import and export data
  • economic time series
 Small area population projections  From mid-2008
 Coding tools for occupation and industry  Late 2008

 Providing channels for users to access official statistics

Improving access is about creating opportunities for people to use official statistics. We provide a range of ways for users to access information.

User queries are answered in person from Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch offices, or by phone through direct help from a team of dedicated people with first-hand knowledge of the information produced by Statistics New Zealand. Our team handles the full spectrum of enquiries about all Tier 1 statistics.

Users can also access official statistics at our three websites:

If users require further detail they may be able to use one of our microdata services. Microdata is unit record and aggregate data that cannot be made publicly available, unless it is modified to protect respondent confidentiality. Access and use of microdata is carefully controlled.

Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs) are unit record data that have been modified to protect the confidentiality of respondents while also maintaining the integrity of the data. Basic CURFs are made available on a CD ROM to licensed users. More detailed CURFs, known as expanded CURFs, are available through the remote-computing Access to Microdata (AtoM) service for approved users.

The AtoM service allows researchers to analyse more detailed microdata from their own desks by writing programs using SAS, the common statistical analysis platform for the New Zealand public sector, and submitting them online to run against selected Statistics New Zealand datasets. The output of the SAS code is confidentialised and made available to the researcher on the AtoM website. The service includes security and confidentiality measures to prevent misuse.

Data Lab facilities on Statistics New Zealand premises provide yet another level of microdata service for the most intensive government users, under tight security and confidentiality controls.

We work with the general public and interest group users to promote awareness of the range of information available by hosting seminars for local businesses on how they can access and use official statistics in their decision making. We also have six kaitakawaenga (Māori liaison officers) and three Pacific liaison officers who work with local communities and organisations to raise awareness about the value of statistics, the importance of participation, and information on how to access and use statistics.

Develop and implement a dissemination strategy

The dissemination strategy will consider the needs of users, with a focus on providing the tools and technology that best enable users to access and use official statistics.

Building competency in the use and analysis of statistics

Building statistical competency across all producers of official statistics is vital to the longevity and robustness of the Official Statistics System. Over the next year, we will encourage state sector agencies to enrol individuals in the Certificate of Official Statistics – a new qualification designed for state sector employees, specifically those with no formal qualification in statistics.

We are also developing intermediate and advanced statistical training courses in conjunction with universities and private researchers.

Encouraging research in official statistics

In order to encourage research into official statistics, we have recently established a Network of Academics in Official Statistics, with the purpose of discussing statistical research issues. An aim of this collaboration is joint research projects between universities and an increase in both student and professor interest in official statistics as a field of study.

We also aim to encourage other government departments, private researchers and academics to conduct research into official statistics. The Official Statistics Research Programme commissions and funds research on the usefulness, reliability, coverage and availability of statistics produced and held in the Official Statistics System.

Maintain an enduring national statistical resource

Maintaining an enduring national statistical resource acknowledges that information collected today is not only important to people now, but also to the researchers and policy makers of the future. The purpose of retaining datasets is not only to enable the regeneration of official statistics in the future, but also to allow for analysis in ways that were not thought of, or not possible, at the time the data was collected.

Over the next three years, we aim to:

  • Implement a standard metadata framework.
  • Continue the process of archiving Tier 1 statistics.

These activities will address the risks that information collected to produce official statistics might be lost or become inaccessible over the long-term through inadequate data management and data not being archived.

Implementing a standard metadata framework

Metadata is information that describes the collection, content, quality, processing, storage and dissemination of data. A robust metadata environment will allow us to improve the efficiency of operations, and the quality, transparency and breadth of the statistics we produce.

Planning for the new metadata framework has been completed, and the metadata framework will be implemented over the next three years.

Continuing the process of archiving Tier 1 statistics

In the Review of Statistics New Zealand and its Future Contributions to Official Statistics (2003) it was envisioned that a data archive would be established. This archive would provide a single reference point for unit record data for Tier 1 statistics to be used by government, universities and other researchers. Statistics New Zealand legacy datasets are gradually being migrated into the archive.

During 2008/09, we will work with other producers of Tier 1 statistics to establish deposit agreements to allow their survey data to be stored in the data archive, while ensuring the strict confidentiality rules of the data archive are met, as well as those of the agency who collected the data. We will also work with producers of Tier 1 statistics to locate, standardise and improve the availability of metadata for administrative datasets.


How will we demonstrate success in achieving this?

We will monitor progress toward this impact through the performance measures outlined in table 4.

The primary measures of this impact are government’s, businesses’, communities’ and citizens’ awareness of official statistics and their perceptions of the accessibility of official statistics.

Table 4

Monitoring progress toward access to official statistics  
Priority   Statements of success    Measures  Targets
 Facilitate access to official statistics  Awareness of official statistics continues to grow  Government's, businesses', communities' and citizens' awareness of official statistics  Benchmark
 Official statistics produced by all government departments are easily accessed  Government's, businesses', communities' and citizens' perceptions of ease of access to Tier 1 statistics  80% agree that Tier 1 statistics are accessible
 Maintain an enduring national statistical resource  Comprehensive, historically significant statistics are retained and accessbile by all  The number of Tier 1 statistics accessible through the data archive  

How will we demonstrate the cost effectiveness of our activities?

Improving cost effectiveness in relation to improving access to official statistics means reducing the cost of access to users as well as reaching more users at no additional cost to government.

Our activities in facilitating access ensure that statistics are pushed out to users through actively marketing the availability and potential uses for statistics. The Making More Information Freely Available initiative will see around 250 million pieces of statistical information made free over the next year. We provide a range of opportunities and ways to access information to meet the needs of a wide variety of users. Since users have varying degrees of competency in the use and analysis of official statistics we target educational programmes and the promotion of specific products to certain parts of the community.

Maintaining an enduring national statistical resource will allow us to develop and maintain a central repository for all Tier 1 statistics and ensure that the correct information is stored to enable their use in the future.

Monitoring the cost effectiveness of our activities will be undertaken through assessing two aspects: the efficiency by which outputs are produced, and the effectiveness of these outputs in achieving outcomes.

We are considering improvements to how we monitor the efficiency of our activities by determining the cost per output, and comparing this cost over time, taking into account such factors as the rate of inflation. Our measures of success (outlined in table 4) will tell us how effective we are in making progress toward our outcomes. An improvement in cost effectiveness will be demonstrated when outcomes improve for the same or reduced cost.

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