As part of its ongoing response to the COVID-19 crisis, PARIS21 released today a policy brief at the intersection of statistics and policy making to help inform the measures taken to address the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought data to the centre of policy covermaking and public attention. A diverse ecosystem of data producers, both private and public, report rates of infection, fatality and recovery on a daily basis. However, a proliferation of data, which is at times contradictory, can also lead to confusion and mistrust among data users.

Meanwhile, policymakers, development partners and citizens need to take quick, informed actions to design interventions that reach the most vulnerable and leave no one behind. As countries comply with lockdowns and other containment measures, national statistical systems (NSSs) face a dual effect of growing data demand and constrained supply. This in turn may squeeze NSSs beyond their institutional capacity.

At the same time, alternative data sources such as mobile phone or satellite data are in abundance. These data could potentially complement traditional sources such as censuses, surveys and administrative systems. However, with scant governance frameworks to scale and sustain their use, policy action is not yet based on a convergence of evidence.

This policy brief introduces a conceptual framework that describes the adverse effects of the crisis on NSSs in developing countries. Moreover, it suggests short and medium-term actions to mitigate the negative effects by:

1. Focusing data production on priority economic, social and demographic data.
2. Communicating proactively with citizens, academia, private sector and policy makers.
3. Positioning the NSO as advisor and knowledge bank for national governments.

NSSs contribute significantly to robust policy responses in a crisis. The brief thus calls on national statistical offices to assume a central role as coordinators of the NSSs and chart the way toward improved data ecosystem governance for informing policies during and after COVID-19.

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