CIO50 2021 #26-50: Richard Evans, General Manager Economic and Environmental Insights
Stats NZ’s role in reporting on key statistics became increasingly crucial in tracking the impacts of COVID-19 on New Zealand’s economy and communities. To ensure timely data and statistics were easily accessible for decision-makers and the New Zealand public, general manager for economic and environmental insights Richard Evans says his team created the COVID-19 data portal.
The portal features over 40 high-frequency and near real-time key indicators across the economic, health, and social fields. Bringing together data from both public and private sectors, the portal ensures that all indicators are up to date, graphable, and easily accessible via download or API. Since the release of the COVID-19 data portal, it has become the most visited page on the Stats NZ website with over 70,000 visits and users spending an average time of 10 minutes browsing the indicators.
“The COVID-19 data portal allowed us to review and rethink how we develop and share statistics, and which indicators would be most useful to track during the pandemic. Our involvement began with providing statistical support to the policy departments wrestling with COVID-19, as part of the All-of-Government COVID-19 Response. Working closely with these departments, we pinned down the high-level business requirements and explored the possibility of providing new data products,” Evans says.
“We identified two main challenges with how policy departments were creating briefings for their Ministers – data management and accessibility/transparency. This meant important decisions were being made at the Ministerial level based on hard-to-locate data that the public had little visibility of. To remedy this, we began distributing a PowerPoint presentation to these policy department that provided useful insights in an easily digestible form. We then began brainstorming how we could provide more information in an easy-to-understand format for the average lay person – which led to the release of the COVID-19 data portal.”
Flexible data ingestion made it possible to handle the different formats such data models and frequencies in a highly automated way. This made it possible to add new data sources quickly with minimal burden on data suppliers. The data management behind the portal is entirely generic and designed to scale. Creating iterations in an agile way was key, as data and customer requirements evolved.
Following its success with the COVID-19 data portal, StatsNZ has begun to apply the learnings to other projects and data platforms, including the New Zealand Activity Indictor (NZAC) and the refresh of Ngā Tūtohu Aotearoa – Indicators New Zealand.