The 9th SDMX Global Conference Launched with More than 500 experts from 107 countries

  • article
30 Oct 2023

The Information & eGovernment Authority (iGA) launched the 9th Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange (SDMX) Global Conference under the theme ‘Empowering Data Communities’. Held in the Middle East for the first time, the event is a collaboration between the iGA and number of international organizations. The event has drawn more than 500 participants from 107 countries, including data science experts, officials from regional and international institutions, statisticians, and data users from national, regional, and international organizations, as well as academia and the private sector.

The opening ceremony commenced with a keynote address by His Excellency Mr. Rasheed Al Maraj, Governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB), in which he highlighted the CBB’s dedication to the development of official statistics with a focus on enhancing monetary and financial stability while ensuring the sustainable development of the financial industry. He emphasized the importance of high-quality official statistics that can be effectively managed and published, recognizing their impact on the bank’s policies and initiatives, and adding that this information also empowers financial institutions and the general public.

Al Maraj also highlighted the CBB’s commitment to offering a variety of transparent monthly and annual statistical publications, and its focus on harnessing digital technologies to improve data accessibility and utilization, in alignment with global best practices.

He delved into the role of central banks in the decision-making processes and their interaction with international bodies such as the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank, noting that this helps to reduce errors and enhance the speed of data exchange. He underscored the significance of adopting the SDMX initiative and its influence on enhancing the data management capabilities of these institutions, and how it also contributes to the creation of a more comprehensive and coherent global ecosystem for financial data.

The Governor highlighted the benefits of relying on data and SDMX to empower data communities, noting the need to provide unified information that is transparent, usable, accessible, and applicable.

He said that entities in Bahrain are actively participating in the global data revolution, recognizing the transformative potential of the SDMX initiative and proactively embracing it to ensure their position at the forefront of innovation and progress.

During his speech, iGA Chief Executive, Mohammed Ali Al Qaed underlined the iGA’s core principles and unwavering commitment to turning Bahrain into a digital society, in line with the vision of the senior leadership and the directives of His Excellency Gen. Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, the Minister of Interior and Chairman of the Ministerial Committee for Information and Communications Technology (MCICT).

He highlighted how these visions and directives have driven the Kingdom’s digital transformation journey, emphasizing the pivotal role of data as a driving force for change, enhancing quality of life, and fostering a more connected society. This progress is evident in the Kingdom's successful provision of over 630 government services through a variety of efficient and easily accessible digital channels.

Al Qaed said that successful digital initiatives rely on the availability of accurate, useful data, optimal use of advanced technologies, and supportive digital regulations and policies, such as Personal Data Protection law and the One-Time Data policy. He pointed out that the Kingdom’s comprehensive approach to eGovernment integrates more than 15 major systems and more than 10 national systems, integrated with online public services that can be accessed by government agencies, the private sector, and individuals through multiple channels. This advanced digital infrastructure has resulted in an eGovernment experience that is as convenient, efficient, and seamless as possible.

iGA’s Chief Executive showcased numerous data initiatives that have improved governance and foster innovation in the Kingdom. Notable among these was the 2010 population census with administrative records, the launch of the Bahrain Open Data Portal, the launch of the National SDG’s Portal, and general surveys such as the Consumer Price Index, household income and expenditure surveys, among others.

He highlighted the efforts of the GCC Statistical Center (GCC-Stat) in utilizing statistical information to support decision-making, research, and dialogue within Gulf countries. He also mentioned the Center’s recognition by the World Bank in 2018 as one of the top 10 international institutions when it comes to open data readiness. He noted the support provided by GCC countries to the Center and its impact on achievements such as the GCC Strategic Plan for joint Statistical Work; the unification of standards and methodologies for several projects, such as the basis of the coordinated administrative record for the 2020 population census and employment survey; the development of models and indicators to measure the implementation of joint GCC projects; and others.

Al Qaed said that the SDMX Initiative provides the tools needed to address regional challenges, harness opportunities, and make significant contributions to global dialogues on statistics. He highlighted the implementation of this initiative across the GCC through the ‘Marsa’ platform, which connects all six national statistical offices with GCC-Stat. It contributes to automating data collection and exchange using SDMX and the National Summary Data Pages (NSDP) exchange indicator, enabling automatic sharing of statistical and descriptive data within the SDMX framework.

The General Authority for Statistics President, Dr. Fahd Al-Dosari said that there has been a noticeable widening in the types of mechanisms and methodologies used in official statistics, as well as those used for data collection and analysis and the development of statistical indicators.  As a result, the exchange of statistical and descriptive data has become critical to the data community, and accordingly, the global SDMX initiative was in response to rapid developments and ongoing demand for large, information-rich data sets. The initiative seeks to empower the data community and modernize and unify the mechanisms used at the local and international levels.

IMF Director of Statistics and Chief Statistician, Bert Kroese delivered a speech on behalf of the SDMX initiative sponsors in which he stated that the exchange of statistical data and metadata has become a necessity for data communities with the notable widening in official statistical mechanisms and methods and the ongoing development of data collection and analysis techniques and methodologies for creating statistical indicators. The international SDMX initiative was launched in response to an acceleration in the demand for large and informative data sets. Its goals include empowering the data community through up to date data and the unification of methodologies, whether at a national or international level. The initiative also provides access to a specialized global community through a range of support and training mechanisms, such as user forums, technical assistance services, and various events.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Head of Smart Data, Eric Anvar gave a keynote speech on the importance of SDMX to the exchange of statistical and descriptive data and as an enabling tool for artificial intelligence. He touched on the topic of open sources and explained their impact on improving access and rapid data searches and updates. He reviewed the most notable open-source applications that organizations around the world rely on, outlining how they can link and develop databases between them. He also highlighted the role of experts and specialists in optimally dealing with applications.

The opening ceremony also announced the winners of a Hackathon, in which talented developers and data experts from local, regional, and international institutions came together to create an open-source, interactive web application that efficiently reads specification files and retrieves data from SDMX Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), resulting in a dynamic and interactive dashboard.

The conference, held from 29th October to 2nd November 2023, will host a series of discussions and workshops focused on SDMX. Major international organizations collaborating with the iGA on this event include the United Nations (UN), the World Bank Group, the IMF, the OECD, the BIS, the European Central Bank, and the International Labor Organization (ILO). The event is also supported by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the Central Bank of Italy.

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