Ghanem Al Mehairbi
Section Head, Statistical Information Systems, SCAD
Providing free access to valuable census data
The Statistics Centre-Abu Dhabi (SCAD) is an independent entity established in 2008 as the main authority handling official statistics in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. SCAD collects, classifies, stores, analyses and disseminates statistics for the compilation of social, demographic, economic, environmental and cultural indicators.
As a newly created authority, SCAD has been able to adopt best practices from international bodies and leading national statistical organizations (NSOs). It uses the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Generic Statistical Business Process Model (GSBPM) as the underlying framework for its statistical system, but is eager to explore and implement new and cost-effective methods to support its ambition to become a world leader in statistical analysis.
SCAD has four main objectives: to develop and organize a statistical system for Abu Dhabi, to contribute to the UAE's national statistical system, to provide official statistics related to the conditions of Abu Dhabi society, and to support decision makers in the Emirate. "The end result is to make useful information freely available and easy to use," says Ghanem Al Mehairbi, who is Section Head of Statistical Information Systems (SIS) at SCAD's Dissemination Department.
This will lead to better use of resources and greater efficiency.
Ghanem Al Mehairbi
The role of this department is to reach out to external users (including other government agencies, businesses and the public) with statistics that help answer their questions. The SIS team facilitates this by providing efficient ways to access and analyze detailed data through the use of specialized software applications.
The 2011 census
In October 2011, SCAD conducted its first census of population and households, with the primary aim of making large amounts of census data available to a broad range of expert and non-expert users via online statistical tools. SCAD identified some prerequisite features to be incorporated into these tools. They included:
- Ease of use/access. The solution should not require training. It should be intuitive and easy to understand by a range of user types. Users should not be required to register, nor log-in.
- Spatial representation. The census data outputs needed to incorporate some form of spatial representation.
- Sense of community. The ability to learn more about local communities through census data was a priority. The chosen solution needed to be able to “tell a story” about a self-defined community.
- Extract and take-away. As the Census 2011 data would be made available electronically for the first time, SCAD wanted to make it easy for users to extract and take away the data for further analysis.
- Confidentiality. A paramount aim was to protect the privacy and anonymity of individuals, according to internationally recognized standards.
- User skill levels. SCAD recognized that people with different skill levels would use the tools. Therefore any solution would require a layered approach.
Better use of resources
SCAD decided that the best software to meet these demanding requirements was SAS®: "SAS is recognized as an analytics provider of choice for many statistical offices globally," says Al Mehairbi.
SCAD used SAS software in the micro and macro analysis of census data, and as the primary tool for statistical dissemination. In addition to using innovative enumeration technologies (e.g. iPads), SCAD developed innovative online tools in SAS for thematic mapping and table-building.
"With the release of the SAS tools, many users will have access to a large amount of valuable census data," says Al Mehairbi. "Users can now customize statistical data to meet their specific needs, which enables them to make better informed decisions – leading to better use of resources and greater efficiency."
With thematic mapping, users can select census data and display it over a selected geographical area (such as region, district, or sector level). "Spatial views of population characteristics can support many types of decision making," says Greg Pole, Manager of the Dissemination Department.
With community tables, users can go on to create rich tabular information based on the geographical census data. For example, a property developer might want to identify areas with a large concentration of elderly residents in order to decide where to situate new retirement villages; a retail chain might want to identify areas with large numbers of family households to help decide where to locate new stores.
"With the table builder users can decide how to present the information in a meaningful way for decision-makers, with simple drag and drop functionality, in English or in Arabic," Pole says.
"There is an additional benefit from the development of the SAS tools, and that is the re-use of the applications for other non-census datasets such as foreign trade and the annual economic survey," he adds.
In recognition of its effective and innovative use of SAS software, SCAD was the first government entity in the Middle East to be awarded the prestigious SAS Excellence in Government Award in the Middle East. The award was presented in person by SAS President and Founder, Dr Jim Goodnight. "It was very generous of Jim to visit us. He has had a positive influence on staff in the SIS team and across SCAD generally," concludes Ghanem Al Mehairbi.
Ease of use, spatial representation, sense of community and confidentiality.
Thematic mapping allows users to select census data and display it over a selected geographical area and spatial views of population characteristics provide insight useful in decision-making.