UK business register. Credit: Paul Downey, Flickr
UK business register. Credit: Paul Downey, Flickr

Administrative data collected by governments and service providers during their day-to-day business is an increasingly important source for producing official statistics. It is cost effective as it is collected routinely, producing more timely data and with greater efficiency - from registering the birth of a child, purchasing a property and registering the title, seeking out medical services, to enrolling children in school, and filing taxes. Despite this potential, administrative data still remains untapped. It has been one year since the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) came together around the Administrative Data Collaborative - a multi-stakeholder learning collaborative of countries and regional and international agencies aiming to strengthen the capacity of countries to use administrative data sources for statistical purposes. 

A year in, here are five things we have learned:

1. Knowledge sharing can (and should) take a wide range of forms, and a move to virtual working has opened up new options. We’ve facilitated knowledge sharing in a wide range of formats: webinars; blogs; task team specific workshops; input to research products of university students and dedicated expert consultants to help deliver key tasks. Most recently, as we have evolved, countries have come to us with specific knowledge gaps and for our support to broker a knowledge exchange with specific stakeholders. Since the start of this year, we have used the expert clinic model to facilitate this knowledge exchange. We’ll continue to refine this model as we grow. Having lots of different methods of knowledge sharing has allowed us toidentify the different strengths and interests of members of the collaborative, design capacity-building activities, and build important connections. In the process our members have developed a sense of ownership and connection as they share their expertise and learn from each other.

2. Effective action means getting the structure and modes of collaboration right. Big collaboratives need smaller groups where members set their own goals and objectives and co-leads can propel the work forwards. We created more focus by splitting the Collaborative into three task teams, with priority activities and co-leads for each. These co-leads have helped steer the work of the task teams and help us to maintain the engagement of the collaborative. As a result, each task team has a set of priority activities and a roadmap to achieve these activities. 

"During this year of work, we have seen that the active participation of the members is key in order to move forward with the objectives of each task team. In the same way, the planned and coordinated action between the different co-leads of the task teams, empowered in their role, allows to generate an integral vision of the progress of the collaborative and above all synergistic." Jorge Urrutia, INE Chile (co-lead for task team one)

3. There are best practices on administrative data out there, but many have not been documented, read, or heard. Almost as soon as the Collaborative was established, we realized many countries had lots of good practices that they wanted to share. Countries took the lead and expressed strong interest in experience exchange and learning across continents, thematic areas and levels of development. The experience exchange and learning adds to the guidelines and recommendations that are already documented and provides input and ideas for practical level implementation. Every country and every data source is different, but there are also many commonalities, seeing what others are doing gives countries inspiration to try new approaches. 

The work so far has shown that countries have done a lot of excellent work that deserves more attention. The inventory of resources on administrative data captures over 20 country case studies. Colombia has used different administrative registers to produce labor market statistics with a greater set of indicators, and DANE now holds monthly press conferences on labour statistics. In Denmark, a change in legislation resulted in the national statistics office not having access to the administrative register of Medicinal Products. By engaging in advocacy and awareness with the legislators, Statistics Denmark now has access to this register. 

4. Global recognition is important in setting higher standards of accountability. The Collaborative was recognized at the 2021 UN Statistical Commission as an initiative to support countries to strengthen their administrative records. This increased the interest from National Statistical Offices in joining the collaborative and encouraged us to set our strategies for each task team. Looking forward to 2022 UN Statistical Commission our priority remains to support countries to learn from one another; for countries to strengthen their administrative records; and for the value and usefulness of the collaborative to continue to grow. 

5. Collaboration requires constant learning, and comfort to evolve. In the early months, the Collaborative’s focus was on countries learning from one another from the COVID-19 pandemic and how they are producing and using administrative data. The task teams forged more concrete activities and focus went to task team convenings and interactions. We have also now evolved out of using the collaborative to share knowledge on COVID-19 response, to a longer-term focus with guiding principles.

“It is important to highlight the long-term strategy for the collaborative, so as to offer the different participating countries and organizations a strategic but also sustainable perspective.” Vibeke Nielsen, UNSD

Looking ahead, we’ve got plans for the collaborative to continue to grow - in levels of participation and our portfolio of work - from putting the principles that we set into action to generating more synergies with regional organizations that are part of the collaborative. Through the Collaborative we aim to strengthen the production and use of administrative data for statistical purposes as a response to the urgent need for more timely and disaggregated data to drive the 2030 Agenda. 

This blog had inputs from the co-leads and Secretariat of the three task teams of the Administrative Data Collaborative: Maciej Truszczynski (Statistics Denmark), Olga Barquero (National Statistics Office of Chile - INE Chile) , Jorge Urrutia (National Statistics Office of Chile - INE Chile), Yasna Bermudez National Statistics Office of Chile - INE Chile), Omurbek Ibraev (National Statistical Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic); Allan Henrysson (Statistics Norway); Phub Sangay (National Statistics Bureau, Bhutan); Lucía Pérez (National Institute of Statistics Uruguay- INE Uruguay); Federico Segui (National Institute of Statistics Uruguay- INE Uruguay);  David Caín (National Institute of Statistics and Census- INEC Ecuador) and Vibeke Nielsen (UN Statistics Division).