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Statistics Estonia to become a data science competence centre

17. January 2019 - 9:26

The Government approved a draft act laying down quality requirements for data in state databases and the conditions for storing and use of such data. As a result of the amendment, Statistics Estonia will be able to cross-use database data more extensively and reduce the administrative burden of data providers.

Minister of Finance Toomas Tõniste noted that one of the objectives of the amendments is to adopt for use more data available in databases and ensure access to these data by other state authorities, while complying with all necessary data protection requirements. “All state e-services use data. The more we use existing data, the less we have to use additional surveys,” said Tõniste. “As a result, the quality of official statistics will improve, state authorities will have better access to data held by the state and we will ensure more cross-usage of data. Duplication and asking for data multiple times from individuals and enterprises will be reduced and the quality of decisions will improve. This will create conditions for the development and use of better public services.”

Mart Mägi, Director General of Statistics Estonia, said that improving data quality in state registers is a great but rewarding task, as a result of which, data in different databases can be linked. “Statistics Estonia already has a related positive experience in connection with the preparation for the register-based population census. Therefore, I know that in cooperation with authorities in charge of the registers we can further improve data quality and build a strong foundation for data governance in the state as well as ensure the functioning of the e-state at a higher, 2.0 level,” explained Mägi.

With the entry into force of the amendments of the draft act, the data quality requirements and the harmonised data management conditions for state databases are laid down. So far these had not been agreed upon in existing legislation, which is why it was not possible to avoid collecting data multiple times. Better data quality, however, allows providing better services to citizens and enterprises and exchanging data between databases.

The task of coordinating data governance in the state, which so far had not been regulated by law, is given to Statistics Estonia as the data science competence centre of the country. This will allow the agency to have an overview and possibility to use database data more efficiently for various statistical analyses, and data providers (enterprises, institutions as well as individuals) do not have to be burdened with multiple questionnaires. All state and local government authorities that administer state databases must ensure regular work with data and appoint persons responsible for data governance.

A data sharing service will be added into the law, which will allow Statistics Estonia to better direct data that the state already has for the use of other state authorities. This makes cross-usage of data possible between state authorities and thereby reduces duplication of data. It enables Statistics Estonia to link data collected from different data sources and produce domain-specific data analyses and statistics. Statistics Estonia provides this service only within the public sector and to research institutions. More extensive use of data allows preparing impact analyses quicker than it takes to organise necessary surveys, and make necessary decisions based on these.

See the Draft Act to amend the Official Statistics Act and the Public Information Act, incl. other amendments in the information system for draft legislation. The draft act is sent for proceedings to the Riigikogu. With parliament approval, the act is planned to enter into force on 1 April 2019.