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January 12, 2021

The impact of COVID-19 on National Statistical Offices and the Future of Official Statistics


The outbreak of COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for National Statistical Offices (NSOs) across the world.  As the pandemic broke out in the spring of 2020, many NSOs had to suspend face-to-face interviews and staff were asked to work from home – in many cases without adequate technology for remote work. At the same time, policy makers urgently need data on the evolving pandemic and its impact on public health, education, livelihoods and the economy. The crisis has revealed substantial disparities between NSOs and differences in the challenges they face: while low income countries still face issues like lack of connection or difficulties in meeting international reporting requirements, high income countries need to strengthen the digitization of surveys’ processes and make the acquisition of electronic equipment and licenses easier.

In May 2020, the World Bank and the United National Statistical Division launched a web-survey of NSOs to gather information on the impact of COVID-19 on statistical operations. Subsequent survey rounds were conducted in July and October. In this webinar, Francesca Perucci from UNSD and Gero Carletto, Manager of Data Production and Methods in DECDG, presented the results from the three rounds of the survey.

The presentation covered key findings of the surveys, analyzing the disruptions of statistical programs and the impact on major statistical outputs, as well as the shifting data demands faced by different country groups. It also highlighted the need for stronger partnership and coordination expressed by NSOs and the suggestions they provided towards achieving these goals, which include establishing high-level coordinating technical committees on COVID-19, improving collaboration among government agencies for better access to administrative data and investing financially and technically in NSOs to improve capacity to respond to crisis.

In the second part of the event, Mr. Juan Daniel Oviedo Arango, Director General of the NSO of Colombia, and Ms. Mercy Kanyuka, Commissioner of the NSO of Malawi, gave their perspectives on the survey results and the way forward for NSOs. Thomas Danielewitz and Aly Sanoh, TTLs of StatCap operations in India and Mali reflected on how the crisis has impacted projects and how engagements have had to be adjusted.