What were the highlights of 2013 for the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi (SCAD)? How would you describe SCAD’s performance in 2013?
AL HASHMI: The initial strategy for SCAD 2009 -2013 was basically related to the number of indicators and number of services that SCAD will produce. We had indicated how many indicators would be produced by the end of 2013. So if we compare our performance against the targets set initially in 2009, I can say that 95% of the economic indicators that any nation produces, we have succeeded to produce those economic indicators. In terms of the social indicators, we have achieved full coverage, almost 100%. And in terms of the official statistics and other key official statistics, which are environment infrastructure, if you took at all of this, we are in the range of 95% of our achievement or intended target. But in terms of the full coverage of the key official statistics, we are about 75%. So there is a gap to improve our performance in terms of the number of indicators that will be produced during the next cycle of our business plan.
The initial set of indicators that we said that we were going to produce from 2009 - 2013 was based on a benchmark study that we have conducted against countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand. Having said that, we customise it to the cultural aspect and the political system in Abu Dhabi. So we have compared; we want to reach and be at the level of some of these countries.
Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi (SCAD) publishes the annual Statistical Year Book of Abu Dhabi. What are the main demographic trends and findings from the 2013 editing of the Year Book?
AL ROMAITHI: It is worth mentioning that the statistical yearbook represents a wide range of indicators covering development over the period from 2005 as the base year, and from 2010 until 2012, which includes all activities and economics like business, industry, foreign trade, foreign investment, agriculture, environment, and social indicators, etc. In 2012, the population was 2.3 million and the annual population growth rate was 8% over the recent 5-6 years. As you know, fertility and mortality is one of the most important indicators and demographics. In Abu Dhabi, fertility is higher than in most of the developed regions of the world. In 2012, the crude birth rate was 14.6 per thousand population, and the mortality was very low. We are lower compared to the other regions of the world, which means the crude death rate was 1.3 deaths per thousand population.
What is SCAD’s strategy going forward? What new initiatives do you have planned for 2014?
AL HASHMI: SCAD in 2014 has started to identify the gaps that exist in the current system and is taking the lead in shaping what the statistical system of Abu Dhabi will look like. That's in terms of the legislation, that's in terms of the quality of the product that it's producing, the type of product that is produced by SCAD and by other producers, and the type of product that the government and decision makers and policy makers require. So SCAD would take the lead and by the end of Quarter One 2014, we will identify the framework for the Abu Dhabi statistical system. We are also going to establish a strategy to position SCAD into a world class statistics office, producing a full range of statistics based on international best practices, based on valid and reliable methodology.
By the end of Quarter One 2014, our strategy will be ready and announced. That will contain a set of initiatives. Some of these initiatives will be executed in 2014 but some of these initiatives will be extended up to 2015 and 2016. Now these long-term initiatives are for the total system as I said. The statistical system for Abu Dhabi will require a lot of data collaboration between all the main data producers in Abu Dhabi. The major project that we are going to deliver in 2014 is the e-statistics that will streamline the data collection, data construction, and data dissemination in Abu Dhabi. And there are other flagship programs. For example, we have the sustainability program. We are going to define what does sustainability mean for a statistics office, and to have a bigger impact also on the society. There is also the other sort of application that will be ready in 2014, which is the multi-mode. Again, that will streamline all the field surveys that we are conducting in Abu Dhabi, and that will reduce the burden on SCAD and also on data providers.
What new surveys, reports, and products are you planning to launch in the future?
AL ROMAITHI: The Statistics Centre of Abu Dhabi reviews the plans and orders the priorities of our projects, to meet the user's needs and to achieve Abu Dhabi Emirate’s Strategy 2030. We have many projects planned for agriculture. For example, the Abu Dhabi agriculture census in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority. Foreign trade and goods is an example, we didn't have to actually improve this coverage of foreign trade and goods. This is also in our projects because before we didn't have a survey for that. This is the first time for SCAD. We’ve planned to implement the surveys, which will improve our foreign trade statistics. We have users from the government. For example, we have users from the federal government like the National Bureau of Statistics, whom we provide our data to publish with the data on the whole of the UAE. Also, you can talk about the academic persons. They need the statistics to support their research projects. Many, many people they can use this data.
How has governance at Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi (SCAD) evolved since the centre’s inception?
AL HASHMI: Governance was one of the important topics for SCAD. You cannot have a fully-fledged proper statistical system unless you have proper governance supported by the government and other bodies in Abu Dhabi. We have established the Advisory Committee as part of the mandated law of the establishment of SCAD, and that includes members from all our major data producers, and they are helping us to shape the strategy and operation plan for SCAD.
We are reviewing the legislation and the structure of the statistics system, and a big study on that one takes up on the governance, the existing governance, and the statistics of Abu Dhabi. So there will be some improvement, proposed improvement, in terms of how the data are collected and how are they submitted, whether by SCAD or by another producer in Abu Dhabi. So we can expect to see by the end of 2014, and in the upcoming years, a big improvement in the governance of the statistical system of Abu Dhabi.
In what ways does the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi (SCAD) work with other government entities and departments? What has been done to streamline and automate data sharing across organizations?
AL HASHMI: One of the strategic key performance indicators for SCAD during the first business plan 2009 - 2013 was to sign a number of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and MOUs with key data providers. We have mapped who these data producers are who are critical for SCAD, and which ones are not critical. So whomever the data producers are who are considered critical in terms of the number of indicators that we promised that we are going to produce, we sign the SLAs. One major clause in the SLA is to agree on the timeliness of the data collection with the data producers, to enable us as SCAD to produce and release indicators in a timely manner and based on international best practices in terms of the frequency.
To ensure the data are collected with the main data producers that we have signed SLAs with, we agreed to hold quarterly meetings and annual meetings, and also there are certain workshops to ensure that the timeliness of the release of the indicators are as promised by SCAD. We identified the shortfalls and the challenges and we tried to resolve it mutually with each data producer. However, the new SLAs will be linked to the e-statistics, to improve the data collection and to improve the data release, and will also be with the key data producers.
What role does the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi (SCAD) play in supporting public policy makers?
ROBB: The role of SCAD in supporting public policy makers is to be the authoritative source of official statistics. This allows the entities to develop policy based on strong evidence, quality statistics; timely, relevant, and reliable. So we provide a wide range of statistics that support them in their planning and in policy development. So an example of assistance with planning, we've helped with the capital strategic plan, maritime planning, planning for schools. We've also been involved in developing appropriate statistics for the Zayed Higher Organisation. We've assisted in designing a collection for people with a disability.
How does the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi (SCAD) work with the business community and potential investors? How do you ensure that the data collected and the published findings are relevant to decision makers in the business world?
ROBB: SCAD supports the business community, potential investors, by being the authoritative source of economic statistics. These statistics are based on international standards, so the business community and investors can understand the situation here in Abu Dhabi.
SCAD is focused on data that's been relevant particularly to the economic areas. We've got GDP that we produce. We work on the Consumer Price Index, which is important to indicate price of goods. We collect data from surveys about household income and expenditure. We also collect social data such as labour force, so that we know the unemployment rates, which are important indicators for both business and the community. One key initiative that we've taken to support the investors is to provide trade data online. So it allows the investors to look at a map to see where our goods are going to, where we're importing from. It also allows them to create tables online so they can get a real sense of the trade to and from Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi has made a major push to establish e-Government services. How is Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi (SCAD) involved in those plans?
AL HASHMI: Enabling technology in SCAD was one of the strategy objectives early in 2009 - 2013. In 2014, we are going to launch the e-statistics project, by the end of 2014, and that is fully aligned with the Abu Dhabi and the UAE direction in terms of the e-services, and it will have a big impact. Initially in 2009 - 2013, we identified that we had the strategy of just having key performance indicators to enable the automation of most of the services. And if we look again in terms of the achievements, we can see now that 85% of what we said that we were going to achieve in terms of higher technology, we have achieved it. However the technology is changing, and has evolved. And also the government, their requirement is changing. We are adapting to that direction, so we introduced a number of apps, applications, a number of web applications also in terms of the thematic maps and in terms of the search table, and the SCAD web portal. So we are moving and we are aligning ourselves with Abu Dhabi government directions of the e-service and the smart-government, and we are working with all the main data producers to work together and to achieve the vision of Abu Dhabi.
What is Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi (SCAD) doing to improve statistical literacy and understanding?
ROBB: To improve statistical literacy and statistical understanding, SCAD has established a Statistical Training Institute. This is particularly aimed at the other government entities of Abu Dhabi, so we offer training programs with international experts who come here and provide a range of courses from introductory statistics right through to quite detailed technical statistics. The feedback we've had from government entities on these programs has been very positive, in particular they're beginning to understand the importance of the data they're collecting, how it can be transformed into statistics, and how they can be used in public policy making.