1. What the ONS International Development Team does

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) International Development Team (IDT) was created in September 2016 to use the UK's Official Development Assistance budget to support statistical modernisation in countries in the developing world. The team prioritises, plans and leads the provision of high-quality technical assistance, by its experts, to build the capacity of statistical systems in developing countries.

Working with the rest of UK government to ensure that our work complements and supports our international objectives, we work at two levels:

  • We have developed medium-term partnerships with some core National Statistical offices on statistical modernisation.

  • We harness ONS expertise to support global statistical programmes and share best practices through the international statistical system.

We have made a short video of our work, focusing on our partnership in Ghana.

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2. Current projects

The bulk of our work is currently funded through a Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) grant. This has enabled us to:

a) Establish four in-depth partnerships with three main African National Statistical Offices (NSOs) to support statistical modernisation in Africa.

These partnerships include the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Our main results during the first three years have included:

  • making good quality leadership training available to African National Statistical Systems

  • improving UNECA's role in supporting 2020 census round in Africa

  • improving the capability of African NSOs to respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

  • establishing a sustainable data science team in NISR Kigali

  • improving approaches to data security, and developing an appropriate legal and policy environment in preparation for establishing a Big Data Lab in Rwanda

  • improving the geospatial quality and coverage for the 2020 Ghanaian Census

  • improving public and policy analysis to support national development and evidence-based decision-making in Ghana

  • professionalising communications at the GSS

  • improving data collection in Kenya's first digital census

b)  Work with the Data Science Campus to support NSOs in developing countries that are building their capability and experience in data science.

In 2019, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) set up the ONS and FCDO Data Science Hub. This is part of the Data Science Campus but embedded within FCDO so that it can draw on their wide and deep development knowledge and partnerships.

The Hub seeks to build open source tools that help decision-makers use new data sources (like satellite images, mobile phone data and remote sensing) and techniques (like machine learning and natural language processing). It also seeks to provide training and mentoring to other organisations so that they can use these data and methods themselves as well as automating manual data processing.

c) Improve the transparency of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) data in developing countries.

Working with the SDGs team, we are supporting countries that want to set up their own SDG national reporting platform. The UK is an important contributor to the development of Open SDG, an open source, free-to-reuse SDG-reporting platform, which is used for the UK SDG data website. We have supported the development of guidance, information and case studies on the Open SDG website to enable other countries to develop their own version. We have also directly supported Rwanda, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Kyrgyzstan to set up their SDG platforms. In addition to our SDG platform work, we are supporting countries and organisations to develop and implement Inclusive Data Charter action plans, to ensure that no one is left behind.

d) Work closely with the FCDO's Growth and Resilience Division on a global drive to improve the quality, consistency and dissemination of statistics on employment and productivity.

This is in support of the FCDO's Better Delivery on Jobs project and the ultimate objective of creating more productive, high wage employment and productive economies in low income countries.

e) Support ONS engagement in important international events for the benefit of partner countries.

In 2018, this included the Data for Development Festival in Bristol where we hosted a side visit to the ONS and Data Science Campus,  the Commonwealth Heads of Statistics Conference in London, and meetings of the Titchfield City Group on Ageing.

In addition to our main collaboration, we have also provided technical inputs to other important international statistical capacity building programmes, including: the World Bank International Comparison Programme, the IMF Enhanced Data Dissemination Initiative, a FCDO-funded project on the population and housing census in Ethiopia and others.

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3. Contact us

To contact the International Development team, please email international.development@ons.gov.uk.

For some of our latest updates, you can also follow Emily Poskett on Twitter: @emposkett

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