2020 Online Event: Data Collection in Times of Covid-19, 5-8 October 2020

Due to shortage of staff in the Statistical Management and Modernisation Unit at UNECE and the Covid-19 pandemic, the regular Workshop on Statistical Data Collection was. It is replaced by an online event on the Covid-19 response in the area of Data Collection.

The COVID-19 pandemic has a significant impact on data collection operations for Statistical Offices. The crisis directly impacts data collection operations and poses new challenges, but it also creates opportunities. The aim of the virtual meeting was to share experiences and lessons learned, discuss challenges and solutions, as well as to identify areas for future work and prospects for collaboration. The end result may be that the legacy of the crisis will be an improved data collection.


Impact: Nearly all countries went into lock-down situations. This has directly impacted existing data collection activities. Survey and Census operations were modified, postponed or even canceled. Response rates have changed or impacted various groups differently. There might have been existing practices that mitigated or exacerbated the impact. Examples of topics:

  • Impact on CAPI and use of CATI and CAWI in multi-mode data collections.
  • Actual development of responses and how did the response change for the various response groups (e.g. for difficult to reach populations?).
  • Measures to mitigate the impact on ongoing and planned census and surveys.
  • Arrangements you made before the crisis that minimized its impact.
  • Practices that exacerbated the impact of the crisis
  • New approaches to better communicate with respondents and deal with perceived burden in pandemic situation.

Challenges: besides the direct impact of the pandemic, it led to temporary or medium-term changes in data collection operations. Policy makers and society need different and timelier data to make better decisions in their Covid-19 response. This might have led to new roles for NSOs or the need for providing and collecting new types of data. As lock-down and mobility restrictions are being lessened or removed, data collection operations can restart with or without modifications. Topics include:

  • New data needs during the Covid-19 pandemic for monitoring and decision-making by governments and society.
  • Role of NSOs in coordinating nationwide (primary and secondary) data collection needed in the national Covid-19 response.
  • Impact on partnerships or collaborations in response to the pandemic.
  • Temporary measures and changes in the mix of modes and their impact on comparability of data.
  • Instructing and recruiting interviewers/enumerators when in lock-down or with distancing rules.
  • How to reintroduce field operations (CAPI new style).

Opportunities: the pandemic leads to several long-term or permanent changes. It can have induced as well as accelerated the use of new modes or data sources. Likewise, NSOs have taken up new roles or these may have been fast-tracked because of the crisis. The value of official statistics and of having strong national statistical systems that produced timely and relevant data became apparent in many countries. Potential examples are:

  • New modes of data collection and adaptations (CAVI and other new modes).
  • New sources (use of new administrative data or none-traditional sources etc.).
  • New roles and areas or work in the national data ecosystem (permanent changes).
  • Brand capitalizations: increased value proposition of official statistics and trust in NSOs and how to capitalize on this.
  • Changes in the access and usage of sensitive data or the ability to use privacy sensitive data.

Key Links:

Meeting Documents

Invitation Letter


Virtual Census Meeting 29 Sept-1 October


Steering Committee:

Britta Gauckler

Dan Eriksson

Hakkı Aydoğdu

Ian O'Sullivan

Irene Salemink

Lise Rivais

Paulo Saraiva dos Santos

Taeke Gjaltema

The workshop programme included virtual discussions in smaller groups to share experiences of data collection under COVID and to share what we think will be the legacy of the pandemic in terms of changes in data collection practices.

The detailed timetable of the virtual meetings and other relevant documents are available here: https://statswiki.unece.org/x/9wbUE

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