Statistical legislation

Statistical legislation   is essential to the functioning of national statistical systems. It establishes the mandates – roles and responsibilities of institutions, including the NSO, in the, production and dissemination of statistics in the country. It describes the governance structure of the statistical system and the relationships between institutions and stakeholders of statistics. 

Statistical legislation, also known as statistical law   or act, defines the basic data and statistical outputs that the national statistical system is bound to produce and publish and the necessary mechanisms to enable flow of data. It provides authority to the national statistical office and other institutions to access data and/or obtain records from individuals and institutions for statistical purposes as well as safeguards on data access, quality assurance, and confidentiality of respondent information.

Breadth, substance, and clarity of statistical legislation are important attributes that make for a well-defined, well-coordinated, and effective national statistical system. A good statistical legislation is one that can stand over time while allowing the national statistical system to adapt to changes in both data demand and the data production environment.

The Agenda 2030 has kindled a whole new paradigm of data demand that is not necessarily and may not be easily addressed by national statistical systems due to constraints in resources, capacity, and existing legal frameworks. The data revolution   and consequent need to consider data-ecosystems     beyond the current national statistical system may be contributing further to widening gaps in statistical development. In most cases, addressing these statistical gaps will require structural and policy reforms among other systemic interventions toward modernizing the national statistical system.

Some national statistical systems still operate under outdated statistical legislation, especially in statistically-disadvantaged countries such as fragile states  ,

small island developing states  , least developed and low income countries. This will certainly further hamper their ability to proactively respond to and align with the new, emerging, and rapidly evolving statistical environment spawned by the Agenda 2030.

A revisit of the current statistical legislation is imperative for countries that plan to endeavor on updating their NSDS. The NSDS process should be able to identify strengths and weaknesses in the national statistical system and map them with the relevant aspects of the statistical law or act. The NSDS may need to incorporate strategies and specific actions that will address gaps and other emerging challenges with regard to the statistical legislation to modernize the national statistical system.

Concrete actions

  • Clarify the national policy on statistics legislation. Step 1.1
    • Prepare a statement on the statistical legislation framework for the policy document on the need to develop statistics. 
    • Highlight national and international/regional commitments made by the government that could lead to updating the statistical legislation. This framework would make the case for the need to develop/revise the statistical legislation to take into account the new governance required to address increased data demand.
    • Consult with the appropriate political authority for official recognition and endorsement of the statistical legislation statement attached to the policy document.
  • Assess the governance of the national statistical system. Step 3.1 | Step 3.2 | Step 3.3 | Step 3.4
    • Examine existing relevant legal frameworks and policies, resources, and capacities of key ministries/agencies.
      • Conduct a comprehensive review of the statistical law or act, and other legislation relating to data/statistics that may be embedded in the legal framework or charter of key ministries and agencies (e.g., finance, central bank, agriculture, environment, etc.)
        • Create an inter-agency steering or working group to oversee the review, and/or
        • Procure an independent review by a consultant or group of experts.
      • Present findings and recommendations to the highest statistical authority   and appropriate political authority for advice and endorsement.
  • Include the new/updated/amended statistical law or act as one of the strategic goals and key outputs. Step 4.2 | Step 4.3
  • Identify specific actions and corresponding costs, as well as key risk factors and mitigating measures, for the updating of the statistical law or act. Step 5.1 | Step 5.2 | Step 5.3
  • Prioritize reforms to address key issues:
    • lack of capacity to address new and changing demand, including resources (human, financial, technology), 
    • unclear mandates and accountabilities on data collection and reporting,
    • unclear mandate of NSO in terms of management and coordination of the national statistical system and collaboration with the entire national data ecosystem,
    • need to adopt open data  , including authority and safeguards on data access and use, data quality assurance, and confidentiality of respondent information (e.g., big data  , administrative data  , finance data, citizen-generated data  , private sector and civil society data, etc.)
    • need to clarify or strengthen independence of the national statistical system, 
    • Need to address possible conflict between existing legislations related to data management, and
    • need to establish more concrete stakeholder communication mechanisms, among others.