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The High-Level Group for the Modernisation of Official Statistics sponsored a series of international collaboration projects to better understand how to harness the power of "Big Data" and other new data sources, to support the production of official statistics. There were projects undertaken in 2014 and 2015.

One key outcome of these projects was that there are not many cases where Big Data, by themselves, are a suitable source for official statistics. However, they do have a role to play as part of a range of sources that, when taken together, can give better insights to current and new issues. For this reason, the focus has now switched from just Big Data, to the integration of multiple data sources. 

Timeline of Activities


March 2016

Article on the Outcomes of the UNECE Project on Using Big Data for Official Statistics
January 2016

Results of the UNECE Big Data Project for 2015 released

November 2015Competency profiles for Big Data teams and team leaders
October 2015Release of the sandbox prospectus, inviting statistical organisations to participate under the new governance arrangements
September 2015Project workshop in Ljubljana to review progress and decide on priority source(s) to use to produce statistics by November 2015.
June 2015Sprint session in Cork produced an options paper on the future of the Sandbox. This paper and its recommendations were approved by the HLG-MOS Executive Board, which oversees the Big Data project.
Throughout 2015New Big Data project focusing on the Sandbox - New experiments, new data, and a new challenge: "Create a set of internationally comparable statistics based on one or more Big Data sources"
April 2015Launch of the updated UNECE Big Data Inventory. The inventory replaces the initial inventory and includes all project information collected in the joint UNECE-UNSD survey.
March 2015Workshop on Big Data, 9 March, Brussels
January 2015

2014 Big Data project outputs released

November 2014The HLG and representatives of expert groups review the progress so far on the 2014 Big Data project, and decide to launch a new project for 2015, with the main aim of producing and publishing multi-national statistics from a Big Data source
September 2014Enhancement of the Big Data project inventory in collaboration with the United Nations Statistics Division and the HLG Modernisation Committee on Products and Sources: a new, more detailed questionnaire is under development with the aim of obtaining a more comprehensive picture of current and planned projects and facilitating exchange of knowledge and experience.
August-October 2014Preliminary results of the survey "Skills necessary for people working with Big Data in Statistical Organisations". More detailed analysis will be prepared by October 2014.
Throughout 2014

International collaboration project on The Role of Big Data in the Modernisation of Statistical Production - This project, overseen by the High-Level Group for the Modernisation of Official Statistics, is running during 2014, and aims to:

  • identify, examine and provide guidance for statistical organizations to act upon the main strategic and methodological issues that Big Data poses for the official statistics industry
  • demonstrate the feasibility of efficient production of both novel products and ‘mainstream’ official statistics using Big Data sources, and the possibility to replicate these approaches across different national contexts
  • facilitate the sharing across organizations of knowledge, expertise, tools and methods for the production of statistics using Big Data sources.
June 2013Draft classification of types of Big Data
March 2013Position paper What does Big data mean for official statistics? (March 2013) drafted for the High Level Group for the Modernization of Official Statistics (HLG-MOS).

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