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The pandemic offers statistical offices an opportunity to innovate and strengthen evidence for policy

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In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Statistical Offices in the Western Balkans shared their experiences on adaptability and innovation for collecting, processing, and disseminating data for decision making.

How do National Statistics Offices (NSOs) adapt in times of rapid change? The conventional methodologies to collect data and to measure economic and social progress by NSOs in a timely and policy-relevant way have been challenged by the rapid evolution and availability of technology, creating an abundance of alternative data sources (including administrative records, satellite imagery, data mining, among others). The scenario is now further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has increased the NSOs’ logistical and financial constraints. In this context, data collection methods and the role of the NSOs in government need to be adapted to a changing environment in order to remain relevant for policy.

A recent virtual workshop on “Tools and Methods for Welfare Measurement and Analysis in the Western Balkans” discussed these key issues. The workshop was organized by the World Bank in coordination with the NSOs in the Western Balkan countries in November 2020, building on several knowledge sharing events convened by the World Bank for the past five years. During the sessions, experts from the World Bank, European Commission, NSOs and academia discussed innovations and challenges for data collection and evidence-based policymaking within the region and beyond.

Representatives from the NSOs learned how countries and organizations are taking advantage of the data revolution brought by big data to take informed measures by complementing traditional data collection. They also heard experts talk about how to adapt the collection and production of high-quality data to the COVID-19 pandemic (for instance, by collecting phone surveys), and participated in a panel with European Commission and global experts on the need for timely and independent data analysis to inform policy development and to increase accountability, and how to strengthen the role of NSOs in evidence-based policymaking.

The NSOs shared their experiences on the process of collecting, processing, and disseminating the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) in the Western Balkans, and discussed its relevance and impact on policy, and challenges in making it a truly harmonized instrument. They also shared experiences on how they have adapted to the limitations posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, including increasingly using phone and online surveys.

During the virtual workshop, the participants agreed that a modern statistical system needs to link data across agencies and platforms. Greater coordination and oversight of administrative data, as well as greater analytical power, would provide policy makers with valuable information about where to invest resources most effectively. The World Bank, together with the Western Balkan NSOs, plan to organize follow-up sessions on the topics raised during the discussions in the workshop.


This virtual workshop was supported by the Western Balkans Poverty and Equity Program and received financing from the Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building III (TFSCB-III).

The TFSCB is administered by the World Bank and supported by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland, and the Governments of Canada and Korea.

For more information about TFSCB, please visit our website.


Ana María Oviedo

Senior Economist, Poverty and Equity Global Practice, World Bank

Leonardo Lucchetti

Senior Economist, Poverty and Equity Global Practice, World Bank

Trang Nguyen

Senior Economist, Poverty and Equity Global Practice, World Bank

Carlos Ospino

Consultant, World Bank

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