64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

Data Stewardship - a new field of work for national statistics offices

Category: International Association for Official Statistics (IAOS)


The history of FSO goes back to the year 1850 when Stefano Franscini planned and conducted the first federal population census. Up to this date, FSO is still responsible for the census – next to many more other statistics. However, there is a subtle but clear trend in the recent years: Many national statistics offices (NSOs) can observe that they are more and more responsible for an ever-broadening set of data management tasks within their respective public administrations. This leads almost immediately to the topic of data quality.
The concept of Data Stewardship is quite common within large corporations to ensure a high degree of data quality. Simply put, a data steward is a person (or group of people) that is responsible for the quality of a certain part of the organizations data space. Nowadays, public administrations of many countries strive to embrace this concept too. Since NSOs typically already have a deep understanding of a countries data landscape, they are usually also a good fit for the role of a National Data Steward. FSO is maybe not the first NSO to embrace Data Stewardship. – But we surely belong to those with the broadest as well as most consequent approach and we have a very strong institutional backing: At its meeting of 27 September 2019, the Swiss Federal Council launched a program called “National Data Management (NaDB)”. Besides serving as the basis for the implementation of the “Once-Only-Principle” in Switzerland, NaDB also anchors the concept of Data Stewardship throughout the entire public administration!
Our Data Steward model covers the statistical as well as the administrative sphere of the Swiss data landscape. Because of the administrations structure – which is distributed over three governmental levels – we needed to develop a process for an efficient collaboration between all involved parties. Therefore, Data Stewards reside not only on all institutional levels and within different topics (e.g. geography), they are also coordinated and directed by a federal entity: The Swiss Data Steward, represented by the head of FSO.
Although with still a lot of work ahead, other participants can learn from FSOs experiences and prepare for the challenges they might face, when they implement an ambitious Data Steward approach in their own countries.

This session is organized within the framework of the Project Rosling, a project launched by the Swiss Confederation to expand the dialogue on data and statistics beyond the usual data and statistics communities and deepen knowledge. This session will be the third event of the Data Stewardship workstream following its launch at a side event of the UN Statistical Commission and a workshop in Geneva.