Statistics South Africa | A data-driven organisation

The world has woken up to the importance of data and how it can be used as a tool to guide daily activities.

As the National Statistical Office (NSO) of South Africa, Stats SA’s mandate is to produce timely, accurate and official statistics in order to advance economic growth, development and democracy. Over the past five to ten years, there has been a massive demand for data by the general public for demographic, economic and social surveys.

But they don’t want access to the raw data; they want access to visualisations that allow them to gain insight without having an esoteric understanding of the data and how it’s put together.

We deployed SAS Visual Analytics (VA), which allows our stakeholders to access massive amounts of data from a mobile dashboard, allowing them to make crucial decisions much quicker.

Koketso Moeng
Director of Data Architecture and Special Projects, Stats SA

Using SAS tools, Stats SA is able to draw on its many data sources and bring all data together to create intuitive visualisations that allow our internal stakeholders to gain insight quickly while hiding the complexities behind the visualisations.

“We deployed SAS Visual Analytics (VA), which allows our stakeholders to access massive amounts of data from a mobile dashboard, allowing them to make crucial decisions much quicker,” says Koketso Moeng, Director of Data Architecture and Special Projects at Stats SA. “The solution automates the sourcing, processing and pushing of content to our stakeholders. It also integrates with OpenStreet Maps, allowing us to easily represent and track the data spatially so that issues that are concentrated in a specific area can be noticed much quicker. SAS Visual Analytics was instrumental in how our intercensal Community Survey 2016 was conducted. It gave everyone through-out the statistical value chain access to the data that empowered them to make decisions and ensure that the project was a success.”

The Business Modernisation Department’s mandate is to enhance and improve the overall posture of Stats SA through the use of technology and/or improved processes. It partners with stakeholders who have problems, and advises, plans, creates and executes solutions. In some cases, stakeholders have a need to improve an existing process and rely on the department to identify and remove bottlenecks to create efficiencies in their processes. In order to do this, the department requires access to real-time, accurate data.

The decision to adopt SAS Visual Analytics was driven by a need for a mobile solution that would leverage and integrate existing SAS investments. “This meant that we wouldn’t have to use resources to integrate the tools nor would we have a steep learning curve before we could deploy the solution. As a result, the time from deciding to implement the solution to actual on-ground usage was very short - less than two months. This was one of our fastest deployments and one that made a big difference to operations immediately.”

For Moeng, the value of a solution is only unlocked once it is used by the intended users and starts solving business problems. “All of our senior executives have access to the solution, giving everyone a single view of activities. Also, because it is mobile, it allows them to have constant conversations with peers without having to be in the office. The Statistician General has access to the same solution and can intervene timeously to prevent any performance issues uncovered by the solution.”

“We decided to deploy SAS VA because we found that other vendors focus mostly on data visualisation and not on (deep) statistical analysis. But it is only through the use of statistical tools that patterns can be teased out of data. SAS VA allows us to do that.”

The solution reduced the time & effort for collecting, processing and analysis of regional, provincial and national survey enumerator performance by more than 90% and used fewer human resources, which allowed IT staff to focus on other areas of operations.

Before deploying any solution, Moeng advises that business leaders ensure there is a genuine business case for the solution and that they work closely with the intended users to roll out the solution. “Business buy-in is key to the success of any project to ensure that the roll out is done ‘hand-in-glove’ with the business. For Stats SA, there was a business case for visual analytics and the fact that SAS goes beyond simple visualisations gave us the edge.”

STATS SA

Challenge

Stats SA collects, processes and analyses a lot of data for public consumption but also consumes a lot of data internally as part of distilling data to information for public consumption. A tool to monitor, analyse and present data to our internal stakeholders (including the Stats Council) was needed in order to manage our nationwide data collection operations. The solution needed to be easy to use, as it would be used by both statisticians and non-statistician, it needed to be mobile and should be compatible with our previous investments already made with the SAS platform.

Solution

SAS Visual Analytics

Benefits

The solution reduced the time & effort for collecting, processing and analysis of regional, provincial and national survey enumerator performance by more than 90% and used fewer human resources, which allowed IT staff to focus on other areas of operations.

The results illustrated in this article are specific to the particular situations, business models, data input, and computing environments described herein. Each SAS customer’s experience is unique based on business and technical variables and all statements must be considered non-typical. Actual savings, results, and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. SAS does not guarantee or represent that every customer will achieve similar results. The only warranties for SAS products and services are those that are set forth in the express warranty statements in the written agreement for such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. Customers have shared their successes with SAS as part of an agreed-upon contractual exchange or project success summarization following a successful implementation of SAS software. Brand and product names are trademarks of their respective companies.

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