Easy-to-understand Statistics for the Public

In a recently published EUROSTAT publication, the authors demand innovative forms of communication from public statistics in order not to lose their socially important role. Among other things, they demand ‘…. to tell stories close to the people; to create communities around specific themes; to develop among citizens the ability to read the data and understand what is behind the statistical process.’

Telling Stories

The UNECE hackathon that has just been completed responds to this challenge.
‘A hackathon is an intensive problem-solving event. In this case, the focus is on statistical content and effective communication. The teams will be challenged to “Create a user-oriented product that tells a story about the younger population”. During the Hackathon, fifteen teams from nine countries had 64.5 hours to create a product that tells a story about the younger population. The teams were multidisciplinary – with members from statistical offices and other government departments. The product created should be innovative, engaging, and targeted towards the general public (that is, not specialists). There was no limit on the form of the product, but the teams had to include a mandatory SDG indicator in the product.
The mandatory indicator was “Proportion of youth (aged 15-24 years) not in education, employment or training” SDG indicator (Indicator 8.6.1).‘ (Source)

Winners

And the hackathon shows impressive results, even if only a few organisations have participated.

The four winners are:

My Favourites

My favourites are number 3 from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI-Mexico) and number 2 from the Central Statistical Office of Poland.

Why?

The Mexican solution…

…is aesthetically pleasing and easy to use. The interaction is left to the user and can be individually controlled by him/her in the speed.

The diagrams do not stand alone, but are explained by short texts while scrolling.

The results are not just being accepted. Rather, the concepts are explained and questioned – statistics are presented with the methodological background.

The Polish solution…

…starts with a jourmalistic approach. Here too, the interactivity can be controlled by the user at the desired speed.

At the end, the authors also seek direct contact with the users; a quiz personalizes the statistical data and gives an individual assessment of where the users stand personally with regard to these statistics.

Success Factors

The two applications mentioned above combine decisive user-friendly features:
– visually attractive,
– easy-to-understand navigation that can be controlled by the user according to his needs,
– the journalistic approach,
– concise and instructive explanations,
– personalization,
– hints on the methodological background.

Many of the other applications show the frequently encountered weaknesses: Too much information should be provided, no courage to leave something behind and concentrate on the most important elements. And this leads to long texts and complex navigation with the effect that users quit quickly.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Communication of statistics in times of fake news

In a recent paper Emanuele Baldacci, (Director, Eurostat) and Felicia Pelagalli, (President, InnovaFiducia) deal with the ‘challenges for official statistics of changes in the information market spurred by network technology, data revolution and changes in information consumers’ behaviours’ (p.3)

Three scenarios

The status-quo or bad scenario:

‘Information will continue to be consumed via multiple decentralized channels, with new information intermediaries emerging through social platforms, digital opinion leaders, technologies that reinforce belonging to peers with similar profiles and backgrounds, including in terms of beliefs.’  … ‘Under this scenario it is likely that increased competition from alternative data providers will put pressure on the official statistics position in the information ecosystem and lead to drastic reduction of public resources invested in official statistics, as a result of the perceived lack of relevance.’ (p.8)

 

The ugly scenario:

‘Big oligopoly giants will emerge by integrating technologies, data and content and providing these to a variety of smaller scale platforms and information intermediaries, with limited pricing power for further dissemination. In this scenario, data generated by sensors and machines connected to the network will increasingly create smart information for individuals. However, individuals will not participate in the data processing task, but will be mostly confined to crowdsourcing data for digital platforms and using information services.’
‘In this scenario, official statistics will be further marginalized and its very existence could be put in jeopardy. More importantly, no public authority with significant influence could be in charge of assessing the quality of data used in the information markets. Statistics as a public good may be curtailed and limited to a narrow set of dimensions. …  Official statisticians will appear as old dinosaurs on the way to extinction, separated from the data ecosystem by a huge technology and capability gap.’ (p.9)

 

The good scenario:

The authors do not stop here. They also see a good scenario, but a scenario that implies a huge engagement.

This scenario is ‘predicated on two major assumptions.
First, the information market will be increasingly competitive by sound regulations that prevent the emergence of dominant positions in countries and even more important across them.
Second, official statistics pursue a strong modernization to evolve towards the production of smart statistics, which fully leverage technology and new data sources while maintaining and enhancing the quality of the data provided to the public.
In this scenario, official statistics will generate new more sophisticated data analytics that cater to different users by tailored information services. It uses network technologies (e.g., blockchain, networks) to involve individuals, companies and institutions in the design, collection, processing and dissemination of statistics. It engages users with open collaborative tools and invests heavily in data literacy to ensure their usability. It strengthens skills and capacity on statistical communication to help users understand in transparent manners what are the strengths and limitations of official statistics.’ (p. 9/10)

 

Actions needed to face the challenges ahead

The good scenario already depicts some needed actions to be taken by official statisticians. The authors conclude with proposals that are not really new, ideas that have been on the table for some time but are not so easy to implement.

‘It is important to change mindsets and practices which have been established, in order to put in contact the citizens with official statistics, to make data accessible, to expand the understanding of their analysis, to support individuals, business and institutions in the decision-making process.

The key issue is how to be authoritative and to develop quality knowledge in the new and changing information market. It is important to know the rules and languages of the media platforms used for communication; to overcome the technicalities; to tell stories close to the people; to create communities around specific themes; to develop among citizens the ability to read the data and
understand what is behind the statistical process. In summary, put people at the center (overused phrase, but extremely valuable):
⎯ communicate statistics through engaging experiences and relevant to the people who benefit from them;
⎯ customize the content;
⎯ adopt “user analytics” to acquire the knowledge of the “users” through the analysis of data (web and social analytics) and the understanding of people’s interaction with the different platforms.’ (p.11)

And the concluding words call for external assistance:

‘It will be essential for statisticians to build more tailored data insight services and team up with communication experts to play a more proactive role in contrasting fake news, checking facts appropriately and building users’ capacity to harness the power of data.’ (p.12)

 

 

 

 

 

Corporate nieuws

Eurostat’s biennial scientific conference on New Techniques and Technologies for Statistics (NTTS) is over, a labyrinth of a website is online and tons of documents are somewhere published.

CBS Corporate nieuws summarizes the important trends discussed:
1) New data sources and the consequences
2) The importance of a proactive communication
3) Big Data and algorithms in official statistics

trends.pngCBS06-06-2017 Miriam van der Sangen 

Corporate websites

Why taking this information just from CBS (the Dutch Statistical Office)? Because CBS Corporate nieuws is an excellent example of the second trend: proactive communication, proactivity in delivering (statistical) information to users. The website makes corporate information public and gives insights into activities of CBS and statistics. You see topics …

… and the people behind it.

The target public of this corporate website are enterprises, administrations, journalists, students and whoever may be interested.

A shorter English version is integrated into the CBS website.

Corporate websites like CBS’ are not quite usual. They are resource consuming but are probably very good in helping to understand statisticians’ mission and work .. and in motivating employees.

 

 

 

 

IMAODBC 2016: And the winner is…

The Best Presentation Award of the International Marketing and Output Database Conference IMAODBC 2016 in Gozd Martuljek, Slovenia goes to Susanne Hagenkort-Rieger and her team from DESTATIS (Statistisches Bundesamt, Germany).

In her presentation Susanne highlighted the importance of web search statistics  and why intuition when emphasizing selected statistical data is often not sufficient. To achieve relevance and accessibility of most popular statistical data we should not ignore what the web search data say.

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Presentation is available at the IMAODBC 2016 website…

A few facts about IMAODBC 2016 as presented in the second best presentation by Corey Jenkins, USDA – Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S.A.:

IMAODBC-2016-ig.jpg

 

 

Disrupting Dissemination – From Print to Bots

Digitally disrupted data production

“The collection of statistics has been digitally disrupted, along with everything else, and there are important questions about collection methods and whether or not “big data” genuinely offers promise for a giant leap forward in the productivity of official statistics.”

This statement in Financial Times’ edition of August 20th, 2015 deals with UK’s Office for National Statistics ONS. Its title:  “UK needs a statistical strategy to catch up with digital disruption”. Its message: ONS (and I think all Official Statistics) has problems to keep up “with the profound changes in the structure of the economy during recent decades.”

The “Independent Review of UK Economic Statistics” by Professor Sir Charles Bean, Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics in March 2016 goes deeper and gives 24 recommendations, some of these obviously valid for statistics’ production and producers in general.

snip_Beans-independentReview

“Innovation and technological change are the wellspring of economic advancement. The rapid and sustained rise in computing power, the digitisation of information and increased connectivity have together radically altered the way people conduct their lives today, both at work and play. These advances have also made possible new ways of exchanging goods and services, prompted the creation of new and disruptive business models, and made the location of economic activity more nebulous. This has generated a whole new range of challenges in measuring the economy.” (p.71)

“Measuring the economy has become even more challenging in recent times, in part as a consequence of the digital revolution. Quality improvements and product innovation have been especially rapid in the field of information technology. Not only are such quality improvements themselves difficult to measure, but they have also made possible completely new ways of exchanging and providing services. Disruptive business models, such as those of Spotify, Amazon Marketplace and Airbnb, are often not well-captured by established statistical methods, while the increased opportunities enabled by online connectivity and access to information provided through the internet have muddied the boundary between work and home production. Moreover, while measuring physical capital – machinery and structures – is hard enough, in the modern economy, intangible and unobservable knowledge-based assets have become increasingly important. Finally, businesses such as Google operate across national boundaries in ways that can render it difficult to allocate value added to particular countries in a meaningful fashion. Measuring the economy has never been harder.” (p. 3)

And: “Recommended Action 4: In conjunction with suitable partners in academia and the user community, ONS should establish a new centre of excellence for the analysis of emerging and future issues in measuring the modern economy.”  (p.118)

Disrupting Dissemination of Statistics

The rise of new technologies followed by new information behavior has also disrupted existing dissemination formats (from print to digital) and dissemination practices (from quasi-monopolistic to open and multiple).

A well-known example for disrupting dissemination is given by Wikipedia and its subject is Wikipedia itself:
“The free, online encyclopedia Wikipedia was a disruptive innovation that had a major impact on both the traditional, for-profit printed paper encyclopedia market (e.g., Encyclopedia Britannica) and the for-profit digital encyclopedia market (e.g.,Encarta). The English Wikipedia provides over 5 million articles for free; in contrast, a $1,000 set of Britannica volumes had 120,000 articles.” (Article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_innovation)

In fact, disruptive tendencies happen on both sides: in producing and in presenting or accessing statistical information.

Some thoughts about this:

  1. Until the end of the 20th-century, print was the main channel for disseminating statistics. Libraries in Statistical Offices and Society had their very vital role.
  2. With the internet opened a new channel: Statistical Offices’ Websites appeared, access to databases and attractive data presentation (visual, storytelling, see i.e. this) were top themes and stuff for long discussions. Access to data was now simple and for everyone.
  3. With the open data initiatives not only accessing but also disseminating statistical information got much easier. Nearly everyone could become a data provider. License fees no longer hindered the redisseminaton of official statistics and APIs or webservices provided by statistical offices made this possible in an automated way.
    Statistics can be easily integrated into websites and apps of non-official data providers, this with all the chances to enable democratic conversation and the risks of data misuse.
  4. All this gives statistics a much more important role in communication processes. On the other hand communicating with statistics gets simpler: Letters, telephone calls and even e-mails become cumbersome seen the possibility bots (will) provide. With a stats bot in my daily used messenger, I ask for a statistical information, and the bot uses a search engine or connects me directly to a statistical expert.
    Brands that already have full-fledged apps and responsive websites can take advantage of bots’ ability to act as concierges, handling basic tasks and micro-interactions for users and then gracefully connecting users with apps or websites, as appropriate, for a more involved experience.” (Adam Fingerman, venturebeat, 20.7.2016)
  5. What’s next? Innovation with disruption goes on, but disruption does not always mean destruction: It’s still a wise decision to keep some information in paper format. A statistical yearbook with key data lasts for centuries, not so a website, an API or a bot.

 

DigiPub

Mid-December 2014 Statistics Switzerland launched its first digital publication for tablets (iOs. Android) and (and!) browser, in French and German. The name for this publishing category is ‘DigiPub‘.

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In App Store and Google Play

DigiPubs are provided via the SwissStats App available on Apple Store and Google Play (Windows to come later ).

2015-07-17_storesApp2015-07-16-digipubshpde..

2015-07-17_storesPlay2015-07-16-digipubshplayde.

In the browser 2015-07-17_webviewer.

The challenge: Storytelling in times of tablets

Storytelling in the time of tablets and mobile people performs in a new field.
The idea and the message are old – let‘s call it the book paradigm.
But it‘s a book in new clothes. New aspects must be taken into account: new possibilities, skills, tools and processes.

 

.folio

After evaluation, the choice for a performant and sustainable publishing instrument fell on: .folio, an open format, part of Adobe‘s Digital Publishing Suite DPS.

.folio provides:

  • Standardised navigation
  • Wide range of presentation possibilities
  • Integration of internet content
  • Runs on most platforms, also browsers
  • Publication in the major stores
  • Production based on layout programs, editing systems or web content management systems
  • Open format (ZIP archive with PDF, HTML, XML inside).

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 Rethink publication !

Electronic publication offers everything needed to make a story appealing. But this means: Rethink publication!

Authors and also publication specialists (publishers, visualisers, layout designers) are challenged

  • in terms of concept with regard to the content that is to be communicated
  • in terms of the presentation due to the possibilities that the medium is opening up
  • in terms of collaboration with specialists.

New ways of working, processes and also changing job descriptions are the result and necessary.

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The Concept

The whole story about choosing and developing DigiPubs is in the following presentation:

2015-02-19_dotfolioDownload presentation (format: Powerpoint): Dotfolio.pptx

Download presentation (format: PDF): dotfolio.pdf

 

 

Basic Needs and Delighters

How to find out user needs? Which method to choose?

These questions find an innovative answer in an article from Ilka Willand (of Destatis, the German Statistical Office) published in number 31 of IAOS’ Statistical Journal

Beyond traditional customer surveys: The reputation analysis
Authors: Willand, Ilka
DOI: 10.3233/sji-150866
Journal: Statistical Journal of the IAOS, vol. 31, no. 2, 2015

Here a short version with pieces taken from this article:

Abstract

‘An important strategic goal of Destatis is to continuously collect information about the customer satisfaction and the perception of important stakeholders and target groups. We conduct frequent customer surveys since 2007. But not all important stakeholders and target groups are necessarily registered customers. To learn more about their demands a reputation analysis was conducted in 2013 in cooperation with a market researcher. To determine a manageable frame for the study, we focused on three target groups: Respondents (households and enterprises), fast multipliers (online and data journalists) and young multipliers (young academics). The analysis was mainly based on the “Kano-Model”, a methodological approach, which is often used in quality management and product development. In the following article the survey design and the main results will be presented.’

Basic needs and Delighters

‘The most important category is the basic needs. Basic needs are taken for granted and they are typically unspoken. If they are fulfilled, they do not increase satisfaction. If they are not fulfilled, they will cause dissatisfaction.
Delighters are unexpected features that make customers happy. They do not necessarily cause dissatisfaction when not fulfilled, because they are not expected.’

 Three Target Groups in Focus

‘To determine a manageable frame we focused on three target groups who became increasingly important for the work of the Federal Statistical Office in the past years:
a) Respondents (households, enterprises)
b) Fast multipliers (online and datajournalists)
c) Young multipliers (young graduates and PhD students of social and economic sciences).

‘Target groups were asked for their basic needs and delighters concerning data search, data use and the reporting process.
On a scale from 0 (very bad) to 7 (very good) the reputation values are 5.3 for the fast and the young multipliers, 4.7 for the households and 4.6 for the enterprises.’

2015-06-06_Destatis-resultsgaph

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Respondents

‘Most important basic needs and delighters: Especially for the responding enterprises it is a basic need important to get survey results after the survey is completed. A telephone service is a basic need especially for the bigger companies and the households to support the reporting process.
It is a delighter for enterprises to respond only online. This is currently being implemented in Germany, regardless of the results of the survey.’

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Fast Multipliers

Most important basic needs and delighters: Fast multipliers expect more than databases and datasets. For almost every second a telephone-support is a basic need. This is quite interesting because there are many internal discussions at Destatis to give up that service for the journalists. Also they expect to find data they are looking for as fast as possible and for free on the internet. After an average of 14 minutes of searching on the Destatis website they will contact the information service if they are not able to find what they are looking for. To satisfy their basic need to find data as quick as possible we have to improve the search engine.
Most of our data is already available for free. Interactive charts would delight most of the journalists. Application programming interfaces (APIs) to grab huge amounts of primary data are the delighter especially for the data journalists.’

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Young Multipliers

Most important basic needs and delighters: There are intersections between the young and the fast multipliers. Young multipliers also want data as fast as possible and for free on the internet. Most of the PhD students expect detailed methodological descriptions related to the datasets. What are the delighters? Surprisingly one half of the young academics mentioned examples on how to read tables and charts as a delighter. Similar to the fast multipliers we have overestimated their statistical knowledge in the past. Already more than one third of them see the opportunity to search for data via smartphone or tablet as a delighter. That means we have to offer more appropriate publication formats in the future.’

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Results at a Glance

2015-06-06_Destatis-results

 See also

Ilka Willand got the award at IMAODBC 2013 for presenting this reputation study. See he slides at https://blogstats.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/imaodbc-2013-and-the-winner-is/