64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

Data Stewardship - a new field of work for national statistics offices




  • ML
    Manuela Lenk

  • GU
    Georges-Simon Ulrich
  • Data Stewardship in practice - The Swiss use case

  • UL
    Urmet Lee

  • TL
    Tiina Luige

  • TD
    Mr Tom Dufour

  • Category: International Association for Official Statistics (IAOS)


    The history of the FSO goes back to the year 1850 when Stefano Franscini planned and conducted the first federal census. Since then, the FSO has been responsible for the census and over time became the national competence centre for official statistics. However, there was a subtle but clear trend in recent years: Many national statistical offices (NSOs) observe that they are increasingly responsible for an ever-broadening set of data management tasks within their respective public administrations. This almost immediately leads to the topic of data quality.

    The concept of Data Stewardship is quite common within large corporations to ensure a high degree of data quality. In short, a data steward is a person (or group of people) who is responsible for the quality of a defined part of the organisation’s data space. Nowadays, the public administrations of many countries are striving to embrace this concept too. Since NSOs typically have a deep understanding of their country’s data landscape, they are usually best suited for the role of a National Data Steward. The FSO is probably not the only NSO to promote Data Stewardship – but is certainly among those with the broadest and most consequent approach, and it has a very strong institutional backing: At its meeting of 27 September 2019, the Swiss Federal Council launched a programme called “National Data Management (NaDB)”. Besides serving as the basis for the implementation of the “Once-Only-Principle” in Switzerland, NaDB also anchors the concept of Data Stewardship throughout the entire public administration!
    The FSO’s Data Steward model covers the statistical and the administrative sphere of the Swiss data landscape. Because of the administration’s structure – which is distributed over three governmental levels - it was necessary to develop a process for an efficient collaboration between all parties involved. Therefore, Data Stewards reside not only on all institutional levels and within different topics (e.g., geography), they are also coordinated and directed by a federal entity: the Swiss Data Steward, represented by the head of FSO.
    Although there is still some work ahead, the participants can learn from FSO’s experiences and therefore prepare for the challenges they might face when implementing an ambitious Data Steward approach in their countries.
    This session is organized within the framework of the “Unlocking the Power of Data Initiative”, a project launched by the Swiss Confederation to expand the dialogue on data and statistics beyond the data and statistics communities and deepen knowledge. This session will be the fourth event of the Data Management workstream, following its launch at a side event of the UN Statistical Commission, a conference in Geneva and an event in Basel, Switzerland.