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Entering the Big Data Era — Will Traditional Statistics Still Be in Demand?

The development of a national data management system, along with its architecture and ontology, is one of the key issues for a future cabinet, believes Maxim Akimov, First Deputy of the Chief of the Government Staff of the Russian Federation. A discussion at a panel session on data in the digital era at the XIX April International Academic Conference at HSE looked into the key challenges in regards to Russian statistics and possible responses to them.

A year ago, Russia’s Federal Statistics Service (Rosstat) lost its independent status and became part of the Ministry of Economic Development. Today, the Ministry is discussing how to develop the statistics service and improve the quality of its operations, says Savva Shipov, Deputy Minister of Economic Development. ‘First of all, we are talking about digitalizing all statistical collection systems and processing, harmonizing all state information systems (there are over 320 of them today), and creating a unified digital platform,’ he notes. At the Russian Investment Forum in Sochi, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev issued directions for the creation of a national data management system, which will become one of the key infrastructure elements in Russia’s digital economy, he added.

‘It has become common to refer to the digital economy,’ says Leonid Gokhberg, First Vice Rector of HSE, adding: ‘In the process of creating and implementing a data management system, it is essential to understand and outline the role of state statistics (as well as the statistics service itself), conceptualize its model, systematize approaches to modernizing the procedures of information collection and integration within the context of digitalization, and interdepartmental coordination of statistical activities, as well as consider new analytical opportunities for administrative, open and Big Data,’ he said. Attention should be placed on methodology, harmonizing Russian statistics with international data, and launching statistical monitoring in new fields. ‘The respective statistical services of EU member states have some interesting experience in this regard. They are proactive in their communication with society, business, the state and the global community,’ Mr. Gokhberg said. He also emphasized that the statistical service should be independent in the development of its methods and data reporting.

Leonid Gokhberg also presented a report - ‘Advanced Model of State Statistics in the Digital Era’. Here, he reflected on key areas of structural and functional transformation in Russian state statistics as the basis for the future National Data Management System. In particular, it looked at organizing dialogue between the statistical service and its users, integrating data from various sources, and intellectual work with information in the context of Russia’s currently digitalizing economy. The report is based on research conducted by the HSE Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge (HSE ISSEK) in regards to improving the methods of statistical monitoring, creating and altering international statistical standards, and developing methods of statistical information collection, processing, analysis and distribution.

We are entering a ‘data society’, which is being generated without direct human involvement, said Yaroslav Kuzminov, HSE Rector, noting such Big Data as phone calls and geolocation databases. We have to discuss and quickly solve questions related to privacy. ‘Big Data systems will soon reach a point where statistics or sociology won’t be needed,’ he states, adding: ‘We’ll be able to get data from arrays of phone calls, GPS tracking, etc. That’s why the big question is - do we need to do traditional statistics?’

‘We might want to know about the total number of tickets? Or GDP numbers? The size of the population? So, what is Big Data? It is huge arrays of non-structured information,’ Alexander Surinov, Head or Rosstat, said in disagreement. He believes that Big Data is really a major challenge for the statistical service, noting that it’s ‘stupid not to notice it,’ but ‘it’s too early to say that we are ready to use it.’ Mr. Surinov also noted that the service is very hopeful that the new digital platform for statistical data management will be developed. Another important part of the standardization process could be the creation of a unified register for the purpose of monitoring objects based on Rosstat’s upgraded statistical register. ‘As of today, we face the serious challenge of calculating added value in the country with outstaffing and outsourcing – this is a "fabless manufacturing",’ he said.

The outdated organization of the state’s information base means that departments regularly manipulate methods of calculating performance targets. In turn, this results in orders being executed and targets being achieved only “on paper”’, laments Andrey Zhulin, HSE Vice Rector. In addition to direct the budgetary costs of collecting statistics, there are considerable costs borne by organizations for preparing and presenting statistics. In fact, there are 133 forms of statistical reporting today, he noted.

‘Total annual costs incurred only by public organizations and social administration bodies come to over 66.2 billion roubles,’ Zhulin calculated, adding: ‘We must move towards a unified, integrated and distributed model for statistical, reporting and administrative data collection, as well as processing, storage, reporting and distribution.’ ‘We also need to reform the systems of statistical data collection, processing, analysis and representation, and also create a system for effective interaction with users of statistical information,’ he emphasized.

 

See also:

How Are Russian Cities Different from Western Cities?

One of the roundtables held during the XIX April Academic Conference featured a discussion of the report on morphology of Russian cities presented by Robert Buckley, Senior Fellow in the Graduate Program in International Affairs at The New School, US. The report looked at what Russian cities look like in terms of population density, how the patterns Russian cities exhibit compare with those of other cities around the world, and what individual behaviours might have contributed to the appearance of a certain pattern.

Marx’s Capital Was a Work in Progress

The notion that Karl Marx's works have been studied inside and out is fundamentally incorrect. The huge body of his manuscripts has still not been completely processed, and his seminal work, Capital, was only recently published with the final edits of the author. The 19th April Conference at the Higher School of Economics included the section ‘Methodology of Economic Science’ which was devoted to the work of the German philosopher and political scientist. Independent researcher and professor from Berlin, Thomas Kuczynski, gave a presentation at the conference which pointed out numerous aspects of Marx’s continuous rethinking of allegedly fixed truths.

Digital Humanities: A God of Many Faces

These days, no scientific research is carried out without the use of digital media for the production or dissemination of knowledge. The term ‘Digital Humanities’ reflects this process and constitutes a scientific field where humanists not only aim to use a certain software, but also to understand research using quantitative semantics. However, digital infrastructures are not the same globally. In her talk at the HSE April International Academic Conference Dr Gimena del Rio Riande addressed various issues that arise in connection with digital humanities.

We Must Reconsider the Government’s Role in the Economy

Slower GDP growth rates over the last several years were brought about by changes on international markets and the exhaustion of transformational bonuses due to the transition from a planned economy to a market economy, and this slowdown proves the necessity of looking for new solutions for stimulating the economy. The authors of the paper ‘Structural Changes in the Russian Economy and Structural Policy’ conducted a large-scale analysis on structural policy in Russia and around the world, as well as on possible ways for this policy to develop further. The first presentation of the paper took place as part of the plenary session called ‘Structural Policy in Russia: New Conditions and a Possible Agenda,’ which closed out HSE’s XIX April International Academic Conference.

HSE Hosts Russian National Award in Applied Economics

The winner of the 2018 award is Ina Ganguli, Professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The American researcher stood out for her series of articles analysing the productivity of Russian scientists in the 1990s, as well as their decisions concerning emigration and the impact that emigration had on the diffusion of Russian science in the United States.

Improved Investment Environment as a Real Factor in Solving Current Economic Problems

The subject of the risks and challenges related to sanctions on Russia is crucial in defining a number of different areas of economic policy. Participants in the round table focused on improving the business environment as one of the ways of responding to sanctions, exchanged opinions during the 19th April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development about how to move into positive economic growth while under this external pressure.

Breakthrough Solutions to Lead the Way in Modernizing Education

On April 11, the educational portion of the XIX April International Academic Conference featured a presentation and discussion of the paper ‘12 Solutions for New Education,’ which was prepared by the Higher School of Economics and the Centre for Strategic Development.

Russia Has the Resources for a Budget Manoeuvre That Helps Education, Healthcare, and Social Welfare

Issues concerning changes pertinent to key social spheres were discussed during the ‘Human Capital and Social Policy’ plenary session of the XIX April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development.

Fifth Antimonopoly Package Officially Unveiled at the April Conference

The search for consensus on antitrust law in the digital age, when traditional instruments stop working, is a complex affair. Participants in the plenary session ‘A New Phase of Antimonopoly Policy: Presenting the 5th Antimonopoly Package’ at the HSE’s XIX April International Academic Conference, engaged in heated debate about the potential consequences of introducing fundamentally new legislative norms.

‘Russia’s Economy Has Almost Exhausted Its Opportunities for Catch-Up Growth’

What is happening in the Russian economy, how can its growth be boosted, and why can it no longer develop through inertia? These were the issues discussed at the plenary session ‘Prospects for the Russian economy’ that took place as part of the XIX April HSE International Academic Conference.