Connecting the World with Data We can Trust
As the United Nations marks its seventy-fifth anniversary and the world deploys data to face a common challenge, let us use World Statistics Day to spotlight the role of statistics in advancing sustainable development for allAntónio Guterres
It is once in five years celebrations. World Statistics Day is an international day to celebrate statistics. Created by the UN Statistical Commission. The theme for the commemoration reflects on the importance of trust, authoritative data, innovation and the public good in national statistical systems. It all started in 2010 with 103 countries joining the celebration. “Service, professionalism, integrity: celebrating the many contributions and achievements of official statistics” was the theme. In 2015, the UN has designated 20 October as the World Statistics Day and decided to celebrate the Day every five years. The theme was “Better data, better lives” in 2015.
Mathematics is an academic subject, whereas statistics is a part of applied mathematics. Mathematics deals with numbers, patterns, and their relationships, whereas statistics is concerned with systematic representation and analysis of data. Statistics is the discipline that involves the collection, organisation, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data. Statistics deals with every aspect of data, including the planning of data collection. Measurement processes that generate statistical data are also subject to error. The presence of missing data or censoring may result in biased estimates, and specific techniques have been developed to address these problems.
“Data is the new Oil”, said Clive Robert Humby, British mathematician and entrepreneur in 2006. Like oil, data is valuable, but if unrefined, it cannot really be used. Data needs to be analysed for it to become significant and to benefit the people. It becomes essential to find reliable data and analyse it because of the misinformation and data manipulation that we are witnessing in the current times. People should believe that the numbers are authentic to take further actions based on those numbers.
As structural UN reforms consolidate, the focus is on building the data, digital, technology and innovation capabilities to succeed in the 21st century. UN Secretary General’s “Data Strategy for Action by Everyone, Everywhere” is the plan for the UN to bring data-driven transformation. In the past, data as an isolated concern for specialists in IT or statistics. The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates how critical data use, with a human face, is vital for protecting lives and livelihoods. The crisis is a wake-up call. We must accelerate a shift in our data and analytics abilities. To respond to COVID-19 and build back better, to drive the Decade of Action for the SDGs, to amplify climate action, to promote gender equality, to protect human rights, to advance peace and security, and to accelerate UN Reform – for more significant impact on the ground says UN Secretary-General
India has produced some very able mathematicians and statisticians. India is proud to have Indian Statistical Institute, one of the top-ranking academic institutes in the world. Statistics Day is celebrated in India to popularise the use of Statistics in everyday life. It is celebrated on 29 June, the birth anniversary of Prof. P C Mahalanobis, in recognition of his invaluable contribution in establishing the National Statistical System.
COVID pandemic brought to the fore the importance of the statistics. Not a day passes without seeing the statistics of the pandemic, modelling of the data and predictions and so on. Statistics is a twin edged sword and can be used to know the way you want. Recall what Rutherford said, “If your experiment needs a statistician, you need a better experiment”. With more data, reliable modelling and statistical analysis, the world is seeing so much of change. The advancements being made in the front of weather predictions stands testimony to this. Experts play with the statistical modelling to predict the stock market variations and so on. With Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning making tremendous progress, data and reliable data become important with Data Analytics playing a crucial role. Let us celebrate World Statistics Day by recognising the need for reliable data. It used to be about “being in your mind”, now it is “in the numbers and the way you understand them”. Statistics is a significant aid in doing so.
As we celebrate World Statistics Day, we should celebrate and support our official statistics. They are produced as part of a worldwide mission to serve the public good. We should cheer on those who produce them and call shame on those who suppress, distort, manipulate, and misuse numbers to mislead, cover up and divert attention from what is really going onJohn Pullinger
President, International Association for Official Statistics