02.12.2019
new york

Innovating to strengthen trust in data and national statistical systems 

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, many members of the PARIS21 community—from national statistical offices (NSOs) to development agencies—find themselves facing unprecedented challenges. PARIS21 is engaging and supporting our NSO partners across the globe, to mitigate the effect of the evolving global crisis on their daily operations, medium-term activities and long-term development. This will support evidence-informed COVID-19 response and recovery measures, built on quality and reliable development data. In addition to providing enhanced tools and training to NSOs and others, PARIS21 will undertake analysis of structural effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and provide tailor-made recommendations to a wide range of development partners on measures to enhance national statistical system resilience.

With the advent of new technologies in the current “post-truth” digital era, characterised by competing numbers, disinformation campaigns and socio-political polarisation – there is a renewed impetus on NSOs to increase trust in official data and statistics and serve as trusted brokers in the modern data-ecosystem. PARIS21 is supporting the implementation of 3 innovative pilot projects in low and middle income countries to enhance trust in data and statistical systems. The initiative was launched at the 2019 Cross Regional Forum on “Building Trust in Data: What’s new for National Statistical Systems (NSSs)?” with a global call for proposals. PARIS21 will fund the selected projects upto 50 000 EUR and provide technical assistance to foster the implementation of innovative solutions across any of the statistical, structural and/or reputational aspects of trust in the NSS.

In only a few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the world, causing tremendous social and economic upheaval and profoundly altering the everyday lives of billions of people. Many countries, in an attempt to ‘flatten the curve’ and maximise the ability of national health systems to cope with the pandemic, have begun to implement travel bans, close national frontiers, and institute a range of measures to encourage social distancing.

As the virus continues to spread, many members of the PARIS21 community—from national statistical offices (NSOs) to development agencies—find themselves facing unprecedented challenges. For statistical organisations working in countries with weak infrastructure or lower health system capacity those challenges might be especially stark.

Trust in data and statistics is paramount to the production and use of data. But the issue of trust has gained heightened importance in the digital age, especially in the context of COVID-19, an infodemic. Citizens are confronted with a torrent of information, data, and statistics, of variable credibility.

In the context of the ever-expanding modern data ecosystem with new sources, technologies and actors, NSSs, and NSOs in particular today face many trust challenges:

  • Official statistics are now only one of many competing sources of information, and they may not always win against more relatable, real-time data sources.
  • Official statistics may not be appear relevant or accessible in user-friendly ways.
  • Moreover, users may be less influenced by those datasets we perceive to be the “truest” than those which support their biases.
  • Further, populist attacks on “experts” and “elites” are undermining trust in public institutions, and those attacks are increasingly backed by competing data, “fake news” and pseudo-science.

Many NSSs are starting to adapt to this new context, realising data quality is necessary but not sufficient to build trust with its users. Yet for many others, especially among low-income countries with fledgling statistical systems, the path to increasing relevance and authority may not be obvious.

Against this background, the PARIS21 2020 Trust Initiative will support pilot projects in low and middle income countries that aim to foster trust in official statistics between different stakeholders. These projects will identify a particular trust issue for data and describe how they plan to advance trust in that context.

After a call for proposals following the 2019 Cross Regional Forum, PARIS21 received almost 60 proposals, and convened a diverse selection panel of experts.

The three selected pilots will receive funding up to 50000 EUR and technical support from PARIS21. The projects will also bring different types of organisations like Civil Society, line ministries and private data actors together to enhance trust in official statistics and the National Statistical System, with an active role of NSO in all project phases. The proposed projects will provide innovative solutions across any of the statistical, structural and/or reputational aspects of trust in the NSS.

The three selected pilots will receive funding up to 50000 EUR and technical support from PARIS21. The projects will also bring different types of organisations like Civil Society, line ministries and private data actors together to enhance trust in official statistics and the National Statistical System, with an active role of NSO in all project phases. The proposed projects will provide innovative solutions across any of the statistical, structural and/or reputational aspects of trust in the NSS.

selection panel

The three selected pilots will receive funding up to 50000 EUR and technical support from PARIS21. The projects will also bring different types of organisations like Civil Society, line ministries and private data actors together to enhance trust in official statistics and the National Statistical System, with an active role of NSO in all project phases. The proposed projects will provide innovative solutions across any of the statistical, structural and/or reputational aspects of trust in the NSS.

trust diag

The final results and lessons learnt, including future plans for continuity and scale-up, will be presented at the PARIS21 Annual Meetings in spring 2021. Stay tuned for further updates on the selected pilot projects!