A blog post by Rajiv Ranjan, Team Lead Innovation, PARIS21

 

Digital transformation in national statistical offices

 

Governments are rapidly embracing digital technologies to break traditional moulds. They are, in many instances, using information and communication technologies (ICTs) to modernise public service delivery, foster transparency and strengthen citizen participation.

This trend is demand-driven. Just as in the private sector, customers, employees, and competitors pressure companies to embrace digital transformation. In the public sector alike, citizens, businesses, government employees, and policymakers urge public sector organisations to move from analogue to digital.

However, arguably in any given country, not all public sector organisations are advancing at the same pace; while some are front runners, others are still lagging.

Though there are many factors for such a situation, data fluidity may be considered one critical aspect to target when looking to achieve an even distribution of digitalisation. Why so? When data flow seamlessly across distinct digital systems facilitating effective decision making, it is then that its users realise the actual benefits of digitalisation and even further propel it.

 

Data is the fuel that powers digital transformation

 

In public policy making, when the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms gradually increases, the importance of data, which props these innovations, must come under the spotlight naturally.

Many rightly believe that employing such data-led innovations in governments will lead to more efficient and effective policy and decision making. Yet, it remains unclear if appropriate data governance mechanisms required for such efforts are in place. This particularly applies to mechanisms that tap into expertise on government data.

Data helps break down and overcome silos in the public sector’s network of individual information systems spread across various ministries, departments, and agencies. From the ‘whole of government’ approach, digital transformation should be considered the planned evolution of the government’s data strategy.

PARIS21 has recently released the report Digital Transformation in National Statistical Offices detailing how national statistical offices (NSOs) undertaking such a role of setting the data direction for the government face growing expectations from data users and need to adapt their digital capabilities accordingly.

For NSOs in low and middle-income countries, who may have had limited exposure to digitalisation to date, keeping pace with rapid technological change is challenging. Unless there are sweeping institutional changes in areas such as governance and human resources, the results within the NSO and beyond in the public sector will remain checkered.

The report outlines specific recommendations at the individual, technological, organisational and system levels to guide NSOs and their partners towards a successful digital transformation.

 

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