News 23 Nov 2020

Corona spring brought new demands and opportunities for data production

In the corona spring Statistics Finland accepted a new challenge and started to produce urgently needed data for describing the situation in society.

“The corona situation brought new demands for data production and data use,” says Deputy Director General Ville Vertanen. Statistics Finland decided to set up a separate working group for corona, which embraces broad-based expertise on various tasks to meet the challenges of this new kind of situation.

During the corona spring, one threat to statistics production was that access to data through conventional channels would dry up. In such cases it should be possible to replace direct data collections or supplement incomplete administrative data sources with new data sets. “Once remote work was started at workplaces, Statistics Finland's letters did not necessarily reach the right persons at once. This led to a delay in answering. In the end, the data collections nevertheless proceeded more or less as normal,” says Vertanen.

Statistics Finland also gained access to new data sets, such as bank payment card data and operator data, from which geographic information is obtained. These new data sources are valuable sources of rapid data. All the data sets are not used only at Statistics Finland, but some are submitted in protected form to the researchers at the situation room of the Helsinki Graduate School of Economics. With the help of research services, an environment was created for the situation room to analyse the economic effects of the corona situation, where the research community belonging to the corona situation room could use pseudonymised data in a data protected manner. The data could be produced there quickly and this enabled fast, researcher-level data production under exceptional circumstances.

In addition, new information products were developed for the requirements of this new situation, such as the Citizens' Pulse inquiry produced together with the Prime Minister's Office. The aim was to provide the Government with information describing citizens’ trust, feelings and faith in the future to support decision-making.

The changed supply of statistics was also developed by considering what can be offered faster or more extensively and in this way respond to the needs of users. Some statistics moved to weekly data production from monthly statistics while others widened their data content with additional parts of their inquiries.

Great power in working together

"The willingness to cooperate has been great. Working together has had a huge impact,” says Vertanen. The cooperative parties started to take part in the ‘voluntary corona work’ right after being asked. It was found that it would not be sensible to work alone in this changed situation. According to Vertanen, the purpose was that Statistics Finland would concentrate on what we do best, that is, data production. “We offered data to the research community, which came along with its own special competence by further processing data using the perspectives of a researcher, epidemiologist or top economist in the interpretation of the data sets. In this way the benefits for society could be maximised,” says Vertanen.

As part of extensive cooperation, the Please respond campaign for data suppliers was launched in spring related to the production of corona data. The aim was that the collected data would form the basis for the information by means of which decisions are made to help Finland emerge from the corona situation. “At that stage it was also found that when we have enough data and statistics ready, it is good to compile them to make the picture of the economic situation visible”, says Vertanen.

“Statistics Finland is the hub of information generated in society. For statistical purposes, we already have access to a large share of Finland's register data. It is important to make sure that the combining and use of different data materials will go smoothly and develop to meet the needs of society in future,” says Vertanen. The corona situation strengthened awareness of the importance of the situational picture of society. It is the objective of Statistics Finland that statistical data will be utilised in society more and more widely than before.

Further information: Ville Vertanen, Deputy Director General, tel. +358 29 551 3243