The Expert Group on Industrial Statistics at its meeting in July 2007 supported the UNSD initiative to establish a knowledge base platform on the compilation of economic statistics. The group recognized that this would be immensely useful especially to developing countries as a source of reference on experience sharing on all aspects of enterprise statistics.
A prototype of the knowledge base, focusing on relevant information for industrial statistics, was presented to the Expert Group on Industrial Statistics at its meeting in July 2008. The initiative was well received by all participants and UNSD was encouraged to continue the development and expand the scope of the knowledge base to include all domains of economic statistics.
The knowledge base serves as a single web-based access point for a dynamic and centralized repository of information on all aspects of methodology and best country practices for the collection, analysis and dissemination of economic statistics and macroeconomic standards. As such, it facilitates the international sharing and exchange of knowledge on economic statistics programmes as well as the provision of guidance to countries. Moreover, by providing an authoritative single access point for information on economic statistics and macroeconomic standards, the user is able to rationalize the search for information in this area.
While the main target audience of the knowledge base is the statistical community in developing countries, other users in academia, government and corporate sector interested in the interpretation and application of economic statistics and macroeconomic standards will also benefit from this knowledge base.
Information on economic statistics, although widely available on the internet, is typically accessible only in an unorganized and de-centralized way. Finding general or specific information usually requires the use of search engines returning a variety of more or less useful links and often necessitates browsing multiple websites or maneuvering different sites of the same source to access different types of information. This has proven to be a time consuming process, especially if the user is looking for similar information from different sources.
This knowledge base provides a global platform for easy and structured access to a wide range of information in a number of areas of economic statistics, thus streamlining this process of “information finding” and making it more effective and efficient. It serves as a single web-based access point by combining information made available by various official sources and by optimizing the collection, organization, and display of all stored information.
The knowledge base allows users to look for information in two ways: (1) by conducting a search or (2) by browsing through a pre-defined structure. The search option is useful if the user already knows what he/she is looking for and can locate the relevant document through appropriate keywords. However, in many cases a user is looking for more general or introductory information to a subject and may not be able to pinpoint exactly what kind of document he/she is looking for. In this case, browsing through a pre-defined structure helps the user to understand what kind of information is available and what levels of detail exist for the grouping of information in the knowledge base. It also allows the user to see related documents easily grouped together, which facilitates the retrieval of the desired information.
The knowledge base utilizes the well known and easy to navigate tree structure. Each main category “branches” into one or more subcategories, which may split further, and so on. This tree structure can be easily maintained and is flexible enough to accommodate necessary expansion. For future maintenance, additional categories and subcategories can be added without compromising the existing structure and its contents.
The knowledge base currently contains two main categories: ‘Statistical Production Process Framework’ and ‘Statistical Domain’. Each of these main categories serves as entry point for browsing the knowledge base and opens into multiple subcategories. These two entry points have been chosen because they a) reflect the concept of the statistical production process, which is currently promoted in the context of implementation of the System of National Accounts and the capacity building for basic economic statistics and b) are an intuitive way of exploring statistical information by domain, e.g. information on “industry statistics”.
The information contained in each of the two main categories or its subcategories is not mutually exclusive, meaning the same information can be found in more than one category/subcategory. For example a document on international recommendations for industrial statistics could be found either by starting in the main category ‘Statistical Production Process Framework’ under the heading ‘Integration Framework’ for ‘Industrial Statistics’ or under the heading ‘Industrial Statistics’ in the main category ‘Economic Domain’. By providing multiple entry points the user is given more flexibility in browsing for information and approaching a problem from different points of view.
4. Functionality and dynamic
The knowledge base is not a static collection of information, but a dynamic resource. UNSD envisions the active participation of countries and international agencies in its constant expansion. They are invited to continuously provide documents of their best practices in economic statistics for inclusion into the knowledge base.
A number of features promote the interaction with the user and thus enhance this knowledge base and distinguish it from any basic or complex search engine. For example the user has the possibility to comment on any document available in the knowledge base. These comments may range from simple remarks to elaborate observations or even ask a question relevant to the document and initiating further discussion of the subject, therefore becoming part of the knowledge-sharing themselves.
The use of the knowledge base format guarantees easy maintenance ensuring that all relevant information is coherent throughout the system and constantly monitored and updated without delay.
UNSD is the custodian of the knowledge base and thus develops its overall framework, oversees the development of the infrastructure and actively promote its use. In that function UNSD is responsible for the overall and day-to-day maintenance of the knowledge base and its underlying database and function as the database administrator.
 See report of the second meeting of the Expert Group on Industrial Statistics at: http://unstats.un.org/unsd/industry/meetings/eg2007/AC129-4.PDF