Ladies & Gentlemen,
1. It gives me great pleasure to be a part of this opening session, which is a curtain raiser for the Roundtable conference on “Data for new India”.
2. As you are all aware, data needs keep increasing with the increasing role of the Government in development activities. Keeping in view the agenda of ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas’ or ‘Development for all’, my Government has initiated many new programs, namely, Make-in-India, Skill India, Start-up India, Smart Cities, Swachch Bharat, GSTN for socio-economic transformation for a ‘NEW INDIA’. My Government has identified 115 aspirational districts for putting focused attention on development. In furtherance of these initiatives and to make them more effective and objective oriented, strong system of Official Statistics can play a major role, as the resultant data needs have increased manifold.
3. Policy makers are best served by statistics that are relevant for policy decisions, accurate, timely and credible. Institutions, public or private, rely on high-quality, publicly available data and statistics as the foundation for informed decisions on a wide variety of issues. The success of a democratic system of governance depends on the uninterrupted flow of statistical information that citizens can use to assess government actions.
4. It is globally recognized that official statistics must comply with certain basic principles, such as confidentiality, professional independence, impartiality, external accountability and transparency, so as to enhance public trust in statistics and make them as public goods. The basic principles are enshrined in the United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics evolved in 1994.
5. In 2014, when the United Nations General Assembly took up the agenda on these Fundamental Principles, India supported the Resolution of the Assembly. After the endorsement by the United Nations General Assembly in 2014, my Government formally adopted the Principles in the year 2016.
6. In furtherance of these Principles, my Ministry is in the process of evolving a National Policy on Official Statistics with a view of providing a framework for improving our official statistical system.
7. In a country like India, Official statistics is a large domain. There are many challenges. Laying down standards and regularly updating them promotes public trust in statistics. Managing the enormous data that the system generates and maintaining the confidentiality of the data is another huge task. To retain the trust of the public in statistical products, and in particular, those that are regularly or periodically produced by one office, require statistical audit through an external expertise. Internal quality control mechanisms are not adequate. Many countries are moving towards advanced quality control frameworks and statistical audit mechanisms, which may be explored in Indian context. Avoiding unnecessary duplication and ensuring consistency in estimates are also issues which require detailed discussions at national and international level.
8. Success and sustainability of any system depends on Capacity building and international collaboration. We have no dearth of internationally reputed research and academic institutions. However, the research potential of these institutions in enhancing the system and Capacity of official statistics systems needs to be fully tapped. It is also a matter of concern that attraction for statistical graduates and post-graduates entering into statistical profession in the Government has been showing a declining trend due to which statistical agencies are relying on other professionals. This area needs a thorough examination at all levels.
9. The fast paced Digitization is generating a huge amount of data and information which is still untapped and needs development of methodologies to utilise this vast sets of data to generate statistics on demand and on real time basis. Advance methods, namely, NEURAL NETWORKS, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE and COGNITIVE ANALYTICS need to replace Conventional methods of data analysis for more timely and credible information. Data science is a concept to unify statistics, data and information to understand and analyse actual problems and issues. We can say that it is a mix of mathematics, statistics, information science, and computer science. The statistical fraternity should not only concentrate on updating on statistical advancement but also on the related fields.
10. My Government is committed to improving the statistical system in all aspects, taking the best practices and success stories of other countries, such as Australia, Canada and UK. We have also been part of international forums on improving statistical methodology in various fields and global statistical programs, such as the International Comparison Program organized by the World Bank. We are willing to assist and be assisted by other countries and international agencies in improving our statistical systems.
11. As I have already mentioned, our effort to bring out a National Policy on Official Statistics shows our commitment for reforms in the statistical system. As such, the timing of this Round table conference is very apt and is a welcome step. I complement the World Bank officials, our distinguished guests from Australia, Canada and UK, and the officers in my Ministry for organizing this Conference.
12. I expect that the deliberations in the next two days in this conference will enrich our wisdom and capacity to improve our statistical system. With these words, I inaugurate this conference and wish it all success.