Economic Statistics in a Digital Age: an ONS conference preview

Written by Malindi Myers on . Posted in Features

The Office for National Statistics launched its economic statistics transformation programme just under a year ago, and will be hosting the first international conference on 'Economic Statistics in a Digital Age’ on February 21st and 22nd, at the Celtic Manor near Newport, South Wales. This will be the inaugural event of a stream of annual conferences around economic statistics, their improvement and expansion, and the use of digital data sources, which is open to experts and users alike.

The wider context to this conference begins with the high-level report into UK economic statistics commissioned by the government, conducted by Sir Charlie Bean and published in 2016. This review focused on the gathering of data, compilation of UK economic statistics, publication, communication of the story, and so on – the full production exercise from start to finish.

The upshot of the report was that the ONS needs to significantly transform the way it collects economic data, streamline production and expand coverage to encapsulate the range of informal and digital transactions that are inherent in today’s 21st century economy. The current national accounts framework was established post-World War II, and was in fact remarkably forward thinking given the nature of economies in the 1950s. But technological advances, dramatic changes in the way people and businesses conduct transactions, the creation of virtual market places and the complexity of capturing the wide range of activities in the modern, services-orientated economy, means we need something of an overhaul. And so the UK, through the ONS, has begun in earnest to transform the way we collect, assimilate, balance, publish and explain our economist statistics. This is a real ‘root and branch’ re-assessment and overhaul.

This two-day conference will bring together academics, stakeholders, the media and government experts from across the UK, Europe and the US, to talk about and discuss the issues inherent in both transforming economic statistics data collection as well as the measurement of a modern, rapidly changing economy. There will be keynote speeches from the OECD, the Turing Institute and Eurostat, as well as the leads from the new Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence and the ONS Data Science Campus. These will be interspersed with a range of panel discussion sessions on topics from 'Is the National Accounts framework fit for the 21st century?' to 'The Devolution Revolution'. There will also be a media discussion panel and a break-out session covering three transformation case-studies – productivity, VAT data and trade statistics.

The conference will give delegates a unique opportunity to explore issues surrounding the measurement of the modern economy, and influence the direction of development for economic statistics.

If you have an interest in participating in Economic Statistics in a Digital Age: Meeting the challenges of an evolving modern economy, please apply soon as places are limited. It promises to be a stimulating and informative event, giving you the opportunity to take part in discussions that will help shape the future of economic statistics.

Please visit for details.


Office for National Statistics (ONS) Sir Charles Bean

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