Successive energy, food, and economy crises witnessed in recent times led to a remarkable increase in demand for quantitative and qualitative statistical data and information. The Saudi Statistics & Information Sector represents one of the most prominent sources of these information, given the Kingdom’s esteemed standing and position within the international system and the fundamental role it plays at both the regional and international levels. Moreoever, the remarkable progress of information and communication technologies accelerated the demand for comprehensive, reliable, and flexible statistical information. At the national level, the continued expansion of the Kingdom’s development process needs to be provided with more accurate, comprehensive and timely statistics to support the decision and policy making processes, monitor the progress, and assess the impact and performance.
The constant qualitative and quantitative response to these growing demands requires the Saudi Statistics & Information Sector to develop a dedicated mechanism so as ensure further development of relevant work and activities in a sustainable manner and keep abreast of the developments occurring within and outside the Kingdom at the same time. Hence, the Saudi Statistics & Information Sector had to prepare and develop a National Strategy for Statistical Development, the first of its kind at the Kingdom’s level, under the supervision of The General Authority for Statistics, as it is considered the statistics authority and regulator. This step came in line with the provisions of the General Framework of the GCC Unified Statistical Strategy, which was approved by the Council of Ministers in the month of Dhul Qa’dah in 1431 H. (corresponding to October 2010).
The Saudi Statistics & Information Sector has adopted, during the development of this Strategy, relevant international standards, foremost of which are the participation and contribution of key actors, including users and statistical information and data producers, with a view to build a genuine partnership that ensures the adoption of the Strategy by relevant entities, benefit from expertise and experiences, as well as exert joint efforts in order to promote this vital sector.
Analysis of the Current Situation: The analysis of the current situation of the Saudi Statistics & Information Sector, which represents the starting point for the preparation of the Strategy, explained that this Sector constitutes an important priority for the Kingdom, and has witnessed a remarkable development of statistical production – in terms of administrative records or field operations, such as censuses, surveys and research -, systems, dissemination methods and use of modern technologies. However, obstacles may still face statistical work. Hence, it is of utmost importance to address challenges that might occur so as to achieve a significant progress in record time.These obstacles and challenges comprise a number of issues related to the society, such as the lack of statistical awareness, as well as the users, such as the analysis of figures by non-specialists and lack of reference to main sources in some cases. These issues can also be associated with producers, such as the deficiencies in some of the administrative records, as well as provision of some required data by certain international groups and organizations – such as the G20 in which the Kingdom is a member – and the method of drafting and publishing statistical reports, and others.
Vision, Mission and Principles: Based on an accurate analysis of the current situation of the Sector and a study of demand forecasts for statistical information and data in the future, a long-term vision for the Saudi Statistics & Information Sector has been adopted – till the end of year 1452/51 H. corresponding to year 2030 – with a view to ensure “An effective and efficient Statistics & Information Sector that meets the needs of beneficiaries in a professional and credible manner”. The Sector’s mission and principles upon which all statistical work is based have also been clarified. These principles are mainly based on the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and in line with the fundamentals of the Saudi society, while focusing on ensuring professionalism, integrity, transparency, participation, hard work, and effective management aimed towards achieving outstanding results.
Strategic Axes and Key Objectives:
With a view to achieve the Sector’s ambitious vision, the National Strategy for Statistical Development is based on five integrated strategic axes and has identified long-term objectives to be fulfilled until year 1452/51 H. corresponding to year 2030, as follows:
The axis of use of statistical information and data (demand), that aims at:
- Ensuring a remarkable and sustained improvement in the use of statistical information and data within the Kingdom.
- Meeting all users’ needs by providing easy-to-use statistical information and data in a timely manner.
- Maintaining a high level of user satisfaction.
The axis of statistical information and data production (supply), that seeks to:
- Develop administrative records to be gradually relied upon as a primary source of data.
- Improve field operations, such as censuses, surveys and research.
- Apply the latest standards, methods and classification policies when collecting, analyzing and disseminating data.
The axis of modern technologies, that aims at:
- Using the latest technologies in each statistical work undertaken.
- Ensuring a high-quality infrastructure system.
The axis of communication and awareness, that aims at:
- Strengthening the society’s statistical knowledge through promoting education and raising awareness.
- Establishing a culture of communication among key actors within the Statistics & Information Sector.
The axis of governance, that seeks to:
- Consolidate the principles that govern the Statistics & Information Sector’s activities.
- Establish a culture of results-based management.
- Ensure the sustainable development of human resources and attract highly-qualified individuals.
The Strategy also sets short and medium-term objectives to be achieved by year 1441/40 H., corresponding to year 2019, that can be summarized as follows:
- Involve data and information users continuously in the statistical work, through the establishment and activation of an official mechanism, designed to ensure continuous consultation between statistical information and data users and producers.
- Provide users with the necessary statistical information and data.
- Ensure the requirements of the Kingdom’s membership in G20 as part of the Data Gap Initiative, and adopt the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS).
- Ensure the availability of most of the required elements to conduct the 2020 General Population and Housing Census through the use of administrative records.
- Keep abreast of developments in modern technologies to develop the sector.
- Complete and implement the two action plans, designed to develop human resources, as well as communication and awareness.
- Activate the proposed monitoring and evaluation system, including the adoption of Key Performance Indicators.
Contributions of Key Actors: The successful implementation of the National Strategy for Statistical Development requires the Kingdom’s statistical information and data users and producers to exert the necessary joint efforts. Therefore, placing emphasis on users of various categories and different qualifications and engagement rythms constitutes one of the most important strategic axes. As for data producers, they are undoubtedly in charge of producing, analyzing and disseminating reliable and up-to-date statistical information and data that meet the needs of users in a timely manner, as well as contributing to raising awareness and disseminating the statistics culture within the society.
Moreover, it is noteworthy to mention that the success of the Strategy requires bilateral, regional and international cooperation, as well as a more effective participation of the Statistics & Information Sector in international forums in order to follow up on and contribute to the developments of statistical methodologies, standards, methods, and classifications processes.
Action Plan during the Tenth Development Plan Period of Time: The first phase of the implementation process of the National Strategy for Statistical Development, which extends throughout the entire period of the Tenth Development Plan (1437/36 H.-1441/40 H. – corresponding to 2015-2019), focuses on strengthening and implementing the current programs, projects and activities, such as the National Database Project, as well as the statistical units, centers and departments’ efforts exerted in order to develop their businesses. Furthermore, the Statistics & Information Sector will seek to ensure the integration of these efforts, through the exchange of experiences between relevant parties in order to benefit from success stories and avoid mistakes repetition. The first phase also focuses on efforts exerted in order to contribute to achieving the Strategy’s new objectives, such as conducting the 2020 General Population and Housing Census through the use of administrative records, raising statistical awareness, increasing the use of statistical information and data, as well as meeting the growing demand for these data and information, and others, through implementing relevant elements and making the necessary adjustments gradually.
Implementation, Monitoring, Evaluation and Update: The National Strategy for Statistical Development is an iterative process that improves gradually when taking into account the lessons learned from its implementation, and is enriched by the developments occurring to national development action plans and strategies, as well as best international practices. The Strategy will be implemented through the development of five-year action and development plans, including the Tenth Development Plan, as stated above. Hence, all Statistics & Information Sector’s entities will prepare and implement detailed exercutive plans in relevant fields. The General Authority for Statistics will be, therefore, in charge of supporting and coordinating these efforts in order to ensure their full integration.
Moreover, the achievements, results and implementation level will be closely monitored, and an annual report on the Strategy implementation process will be prepared and published. Furthermore, two evaluations for each five-year period (at mid-phase and after completion) and a periodic update of the Strategy will be carried out based on the lessons learned from all of these elements and relevant developments occurring within and outside the Kingdom.