Project Start Date

01st Sep 2014

Central Statistics Office

Enabling Big Data approaches to gather official statistics

ICHEC’S ‘Sandbox' is helping European nations to make more of big data and get insights into trends and activities for official static's. 

Gathering official statistics about human activity is important business. Whether it’s a periodic Census or tallying up the annual tax returns, the results can help to optimise national and economic policies and to spot trends as they arise.Yet in a digital world, there is potentially plenty more to gather. What if we could use commuter traffic levels as an indicator of economic growth? What if we could use mobile phones to gather fine grained information from consenting citizens in the period between one national Census and the next? And what if we could gauge a nation’s wellbeing by looking at social media posts?

ICHEC is helping nations around the world to make more of Big Data for official statistics in a safe, secure and appropriate way. 

Under a UN umbrella, the Irish Sandbox offers a level playing field for developed and developing countries to move forward with the use of Big Data for official policy purposes.” 

Mr Ronald Jansen, Chief of the Trade Statistics Branch at the United Nations Statistics Division.

Sandbox for data experiments 

Working with the Central Statistics Office in Ireland and with the United Nations Economic Commission, ICHEC created “The Sandbox”, a shared research and development environment that offers a secure and exible platform for experimentation with new statistical frontiers.

We came in and set up this shared service in 2014,” explains ICHEC’s Infrastructure Manager Niall Wilson. “And this shared platform is now used by people who want to test out methods of augmenting the production of o cial statistics with Big Data and High Performance Computing.” To date, experts from more than 25 organisations from around the world have subscribed to and used Sandbox, including the OECD and Eurostat. ICHEC has also been involved in discussions about best practice in data intensive computing, data privacy and ethics and how reliable data sources can be. “Users can all access this same platform, and at ICHEC we provide the tools to let them look at large datasets and work on the data together as a virtual group, where they can discuss methods and best practices.” 

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