Improved Governance and Meaningful User Engagement to Expand Data Use:
A Case Study of Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography
By: SDSN TReNDS and Open Data Watch
16 March 2023
In Fall 2022, SDSN TReNDS and Open Data Watch released the report, Overcoming Data Graveyards in Official Statistics: Catalyzing Uptake and Use, which aimed to provide conceptual clarity around the challenges of improving data use and a way forward for research by sourcing best practices from countries. This blog series spotlights insights and best practices from the countries profiled.
Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) was created by a presidential decree on January 25th, 1983, with the mission of producing quality statistics for public use. INEGI accomplishes this by serving as a direct producer of statistical and geographical information and as the coordinating body of Mexico’s National System of Statistical and Geographical Information (SNIEG). As an autonomous institution, INEGI operates independent of Mexican government authorities, as stipulated within the 2008 Law on the National System of Statistical and Geographic Information (LSNIEG). INEGI is recognized as a producer of information, as well as a regulator of other government producers of statistical and geographical information.
Constitutional Amendments to Improve Governance, Public Trust, and Data Use
The 2008 enactment of the Law on the National System of Statistical and Geographical Information (LSNIEG) (Law) had a substantial impact in advancing the governance of statistics within Mexico. It resulted in a complete overhaul of INEGI’s legal and management structure, allowing full technical and management autonomy from the government. Article 26 of the Law created SNIEG, which divided the statistical system into three national information subsystems: (1): demographic and social; (2): economic; and (3): geographic and environmental. A fourth subsystem was later added focused on government, public security, and the administration of justice. The Law also led to subsequent changes within INEGI’s management structure, including the establishment of the National Advisory Council and a series of specialized technical committees. And according to former INEGI President, Eduardo Sojo, who presided over the first meeting of the Governing Board in October 2008, leadership from the founding Governing Board played a critical role in instituting changes within INEGI’s governance structure to promote data use.
The changes in INEGI’s governance have also positively influenced the public’s opinion of the Institute. In the context of the Law, autonomy implies no hierarchical relationship with the public administration. Thus, the President of INEGI and the Governing Board do not submit their technical decisions or administrative decisions to a higher authority, such as a minister or Secretary of State, which is often the case in many countries. In its 15 years of operation as an autonomous institution, Mr. Sojo believes that INEGI has gained much of the public’s trust, and it is largely regarded by users as an objective and independent source of information. “With the law came a corresponding change in the culture of data production. INEGI does not create information products for the federal government, but for Mexico,” contends Mr. Sojo.
INEGI also has a strong data protection mandate. For instance, The Law not only protects the confidentiality of individuals, but also extends the regulation to INEGI, specifying that it may not provide any person with data for fiscal, judicial, administrative, or any other purpose than what is constitutionally mandated.
Establishing Meaningful User Engagement Strategies
The National Advisory Council and the various specialized technical committees comprise stakeholders from diverse user segments, focusing specifically on government users of official statistics. The specialized committees are collegial bodies chaired by INEGI or state authorities where specific issues and programmes are discussed, including areas where data are produced or required. This user engagement strategy adheres to the UN’s Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics, which aims to incorporate the perspectives of the entire population and use the information gathered to produce data that are relevant and responsive to the needs of society.
According to Mr. Sojo, INEGI services more than 150 government institutions, and they have established 38 specialized technical committees that comprise representatives from the judicial and legislative sector, the central bank, and the Ministry of Finance. These specialized technical committees have allowed INEGI to improve their engagement and communication with government users. For instance, committee members are invited to share their concerns and needs during scheduled consultations, while INEGI can inform users of their newly released products.
“This technical committee system has enabled the institute [INEGI] to build meaningful relationships with users,” notes Mr. Sojo. “[For instance,] the Ministry of Tourism requested a tourism satellite account, And the private sector requested a flash estimate of GDP to provide an up-to-date snapshot of the economy. There were various other data products that came about as a result of direct consultations through the technical committee system.”
In addition to these committees, INEGI has established an Academic Advisory Council to service academic institutions as a user group. Through the Council, INEGI was made aware of their need for microdata samples for research purposes, which was previously a major data use limitation. INEGI has since devised a strategy to safely and securely release microdata samples to meet the statistical information needs of this user segment..
Mexico’s laws granting autonomy to the statistical office have helped to significantly advance data use within the country. In particular, they have helped to institute better management and government mechanisms for engaging with users, such as INEGI’s technical committee system and Academic Advisory Council, which strengthen the feedback loop between users and producers of official statistics. User engagement requires INEGI statisticians and management to, as Mr. Sojo puts it, “get outside their comfort zone.” And relationships with users need to be established and nurtured, which is essential for institutions, like INEGI, to remain the go-to source for statistics in the country.