More statisticians and greater statistical literacy are needed in Qatar to support the National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSDS), according to Sheikh Hamad bin Jabor bin Jassim al-Thani, president of Qatar Statistics Authority (QSA).
As part of the Dean's Lecture Series at Carnegie Mellon University - Qatar, Hamad al-Thani yesterday presented the goals and challenges of the QSA in implementing the NSDS, and highlighted how educational institutions can assist.
He said that education and training are going to be critical if Qatar is to develop a knowledge-based society and economy, requiring skilled and well-rounded individuals that add value and contribute to the community.
Speaking on the need for student involvement in the nation's statistical system and promoting statistical literacy, he said: "We have realised that in terms of utilisation of data we have a long way to go, and in fact from a QSA, education or other agency's point of view, there has to be better deployment and better utilisation of data.
We've created a system, but we have to go about linking it to our projects, our initiatives and the overall development of the country, because without relying on reliable, accurate and timely data we will never be able to make better judgments, better decisions, better plans - and rely on certain false assumptions that could mislead decision-makers or projects in certain areas".
He said that this shortcoming came to light when certain agencies made assumptions regarding population growth projections that were not at all confirmed by reliable data, and contradicted the QSA's analysis.
Hamad al-Thani also emphasised that while QSA is a databank, it will never be effective without ensuring that the producers of data, whether they be companies or public or private agencies, are providing consistent and harmonised data as part of a standardised process.
He said that QSA is introducing and enforcing standardisation and homogenisation schemes for data contributors, but "credible and reliable data requires capable individuals, training and active engagement, and this is where educational institutions could bring about an added dimension to the way we are trying to address how to improve on the national statistics system."
The QSA president explained that his agency has been studying its role in contributing to a long list of development strategies outlined in the National Vision 2030, targeting its activities to suit the needs of data consumers, rather than simply providing general information.
He said that a particularly important role QSA can play is analysing the needs of the labour market and providing data to educators and policymakers, so that they can respond by promoting certain specialties and fields of study.
Hamad al-Thani hailed the change in attitude towards sharing information as significant progress in developing a re-active and responsive society and economy that can rely on well-informed decision making.
"As a community in general, we are going through very interesting learning curve - a better acknowledgment of why data is important to be released," he said.
He is re-assured by the fact that companies and the public are increasingly confident that their personal and confidential information will remain so, guaranteed by a commitment from the QSA or even the end-users of the data.
"There is no longer the usual resistance and difficulties that we tended to encounter in the past. There is a better acknowledgment because the end-user is in fact benefiting from this data, at the level of normal individuals, or of a company or agency," concluded the QSA president.