Centralizing Data Governance for Improved Data Use:
A Case Study of the Philippine Statistics Authority
By: SDSN TReNDS and Open Data Watch
25 January 2023
Last Fall, 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. This case study benefited greatly from input fromLisa Grace Bersales, TReNDS Expert Member and Former National Statistician of the Philippines and Director of the PSA (2014-2019).
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) is the central statistical authority of the Philippines’ government with the mission to deliver relevant and reliable statistics and efficient civil registration services for equitable development outcomes. The PSA was created in 2013 when the government enacted The Philippines Statistical Act of 2013 that merged four data-producing agencies into one comprehensive authority. This change in governance has played a critical role in strengthening the coherence of statistical production and the use of official statistics within the country.
Restructuring the Philippine Statistical System
In the 1980s and early 1990s, numerous issues arose in the Philippines pertaining to the structure and legal frameworks governing the operations of the Philippine Statistical System (PSS), which impacted the quality, reliability, and timeliness of the statistical products produced. These issues were in a large part due to the fact that all executive departments, bureaus, offices, and agencies of the national and local government engaged in statistical activities as either their primary function or as part of their administrative or regulatory functions.
In the late 1990s, the Government recognized the need for a more coordinated and consolidated system. This led to a series of expert evaluations from a Special Committee of national statisticians, and ultimately, the subsequent reorganization of the PSS in 2013. The Committee concluded that the previous statistical system was too decentralized, resulting in communication breakdowns and delays in transmitting data from local to central offices, and subsequent delays in publishing data for public use. The Committee also highlighted the need to improve the system’s responsiveness to the needs of users, particularly to ensure data could be efficiently used for policy and planning purposes.
The Philippine Statistical Act of 2013 created the PSA, which constitutes all major statistical agencies engaged in primary data collection and compilation of secondary data, such as the National Statistics Office (NSO), the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), and the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES). The Statistical Act also created the PSA Board which serves as the highest policymaking body on statistical matters.
Prior to the unification of the agencies,“[it] was difficult to get timely information,” shares Lisa Bersales, former National Statistician of the Philippines and Director of the PSA, “you needed an MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] or data sharing agreement, so any innovation that one agency needed to do that would affect the others took a lot of institutional buy-in and time” (Espey, 2018).
Since its establishment, the PSA has achieved a number of successes stemming from the improved coordination of its agencies across government, including more centralized decision-making, reduced bureaucracy, more innovative services, and faster statistical production. For example, when President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 2 on July 24, 2016, which operationalized the public’s constitutional right to information and instituted the state policy of full public disclosure and transparency in public service, the PSA quickly responded by extending public access to their OpenSTAT platform, a national data portal that now serves as the central database for publicly available information released under the Executive Order.
Additionally, since the change in governance structure, the PSA has steered a number of recent innovations, including implementing the PhilCRIS system to improve the timeliness and quality of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) data, establishing a new biometric ID program to issue national ID cards, and utilizing geospatial data to administer the census. The PSA has also made microdata for household surveys freely available, as well as national financing statistics, including the balance of payments and national accounts, publicly available every quarter for streamlined policy and budgetary decision-making (Espey, 2018). Bersales credits much of the PSA’s improvements to improved data governance and exemplary leadership from institutional champions both within the Government and the PSA.
Lessons Learned From the PSA
Ten years since the creation of the PSA, the country has benefited from a high-level, centralized authority that is able to coordinate the production of statistics across government, spearhead innovation, promote open data standards, and ensure timeliness in data dissemination. The case of the Philippines demonstrates the importance of strong governance structures and high-level institutional champions within government to enhance data production and data use.