Head of Data Processing Department
Painting a national portrait with analytics
Statistics Estonia accelerated information delivery by 50%, saved more than 1 million euros
After the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the 1.3 million newly independent citizens of the Republic of Estonia suddenly found themselves in a position to pursue democracy, political freedom, and individual economic prosperity. And one of the keys to the emerging government infrastructure was gaining a complete statistical and demographic picture of every aspect of the newly reborn nation.
That task fell to Statistics Estonia, a team of 400 professionals who provide central and local governments, businesses, industry consultants, international organizations, and regular citizens with reliable and objective information on environmental, demographic, social, and economic trends and patterns throughout the country.
Since the mid-1990s, dozens of Statistics Estonia employees have relied on SAS products – including SAS® Visual Data Discovery and SAS® Enterprise BI Server – to meet that challenge.
We can use more data. That increases what we call the 'quality of statistics.' Our numbers are more reliable and we can give more meaningful answers to our requesters, such as politicians and analysts.
Teams of professionals collect data, analyze it, and distribute it to various requesters. SAS® plays a pivotal role in that processing, including preparing data for analysis, quality management, sampling, quality-checking, and more.
Streamlining public sector accounting
According to Elo Parveots, Lead Statistician for the National Financial and Environmental Accounts Department, before the use of SAS, analyses and reports were time-consuming to create.
Previously, that meant aggregating and consolidating as many as 500,000 rows of data, meaning spreadsheets were no longer an option.
"Putting the data together to analyze our public sector accounting function required us to connect to many old data sources," she says. "With SAS, it's taking less than half the time. So our accounting team has more time to analyze information."
Statistics Estonia relies on a variety of internal data sources, including its own data-collection systems that gather information from companies and private individuals.
Some of those sources include the Population Registry, Registry of Economic Activities, the Tax Registry, and the Education Registry. Collectively, they supply as much as 50-70 gigabytes of data to be analyzed.
Gearing up for census
One major impetus for the upgrade to SAS Enterprise BI Server was to more effectively manage the country’s decennial census.
"We needed ways to increase the speed of our processes and do things more efficiently," explains Kaja Sõstra, Head of the Methodology Department. "We were anticipating very large data volumes. We felt it would be more efficient to standardize, synchronize, and put things onto a single platform. SAS has the data mining and deep-analysis capabilities we needed and the integration with other systems."
"And the major advantage of SAS® Enterprise Guide is that it's graphical," says Parveots. "You don't have to know how to write code and you can learn the basics quickly. This data will be much more detailed – and that gives us the opportunity to do more comparisons, cross-analysis, and other kinds of data exploration. "
Increased productivity, faster results
Because Statistics Estonia is a government agency, productivity and efficiency are critical.
"We all work for taxpayers," says Sõstra. "The more effective we are in reducing manual work, the more that our taxpayers benefit. In some of our applications, we've seen manual work drop as much as 70 percent. In other areas, the time to complete tasks has been cut in half. We're publishing our analyses and results much faster."
The team also noted that the greater speed means Statistics Estonia can review more information with deeper data sets. "We can use more data," says Randlepp. "That increases what we call the 'quality of statistics.' Our numbers are more reliable and we can give more meaningful answers to our requesters, such as politicians and analysts."
For Statistics Estonia, the benefits are clear. "Our census project is very big, of course, so the gains there are substantial," Randlepp says. "We're using SAS to collect and process this data – and the alternatives would have been much more expensive. We conservatively estimate that we've saved more than 1 million euros (US $1.36 million) by choosing to work with SAS. It is an open platform and runs on open servers that integrate easily."
A government agency for a newly emerging Northern European country needed a broad and open platform for collecting and analyzing statistical data. It also needed a highly usable and efficient platform for its forthcoming national census.
Statistics Estonia has accelerated the delivery of information by as much as 50 percent while saving more than 1 million euros (US $1.36 million).