Subnational Strategies for the Development of Statistics

Another important element or building block of the National Statistical System is the subnational statistical system. Not all countries require a sub-national statistical system due to either size or administrative arrangements. However, the importance of subnational statistics rests on the existence of subpopulations within a country. A subpopulation is of interest in the statistical system if it is a portion or part of national population that lives in the same identifiable geographical and/or administrative subdivision of national territory. They share common and distinguishing characteristics related to the local area where they live. These are the geographical, economic, social, administrative, and environmental circumstances of their local area.Depending on the administrative arrangements of the country, these can either be referred to as federal states or regions or counties or governorates or provincesor districts etc.It is also important to note that in some instances, these sub-national entities have their own sovereignty thereby setting their own priorities which need to be included in the NSDS. 


Why subnational statistics systems matter ?

  • Development strategies are more and more being prepared and implemented at regional and local levels.
  • Global, regional, national and local level development strategies rely on more and more precise profiles of the population.
  • There is a strong demand for disaggregated data which will provide sound base for selective policies, targeting specific fractions of the population.
  • Poverty eradication strategies require precise identification of who and where are the poor to base long-term and programmatic decisions targeting specific geographic areas.
  • If not properly identified, rapid economic growth may hide incidences of poverty and inequalities prevailing at subnational level.


How to develop a Subnational Strategy for the Development of Statistics

The subnational strategy for the development of statistics may be developed in five steps embedded in the NSDS process itself: (i) adoption of strategic principles; (ii) stratification of territorial units; (iii) needs assessments; (iv) setting the production framework under which data needs will be met; (v) consolidation of local strategies into a unified subnational strategy.

1.    Adoption of Strategic principles
A number of guiding principles may complement and reinforce development of the subnational statistics system and may be customized according to country’s statistical and institutional arrangements. These may include:

  1. Jurisdictional delineation – A subnational system may be defined by geographical area, or data of a group of units of interest or institutional set-up
  2. Legal recognition - National or subnational statistics act acknowledging existing subnational statistics agencies as primary compilers and/or custodians of subnational statistics
  3. Two-way subsidiarity - Identifying activities that are better conducted by subnational agencies and those better conducted by the NSO or sector statistics offices
  4. Statistical participation - Recognizing the roles of various groups of local society in collecting and producing data whether formally or not
  5. Local relevance - Assessing the availability and quality of subnational data with respect to meeting subnational development objectives.


2.    Classification of territorial units

Sub-national strategies will be designed on the basis of the hierarchical structure of local administration. Existence of such classifications makes it easier to identify subnational areas and assess the availability of subnational statistics. It is important to determine whether such classifications:

  1. Cover all territorial units of same level in the country
  2. Not limited to a particular level in a country’s administrative stratification
  3. Not redundant
  4. Covers and treats territorial units equally


3.    Needs Assessment

Development of subnational statistical strategy should ensure meeting needs of users of statistics by:

  1. Identification of users of subnational statistics: These users can either be those already identified in the national statistical system; or local users interested in local statistics; or international organizations interested in community development; or regional economic communities whose mandate include cross-border activities such as trade, migration, health epidemics, peace and security etc.
  2. Categories of needs: In addition to the needs identified in the NSDS, special needs of local areas must be identified with a view to covering all development and management objectives
  3. Subnational indicators to be generated: For each need or category of needs, a list of indicators and metadata should be prepared. It is important to note that a particular need may require several indicators and one indicator may also have several needs
  4. Identifying data gaps: Identify which indicators will be generated among those selected above determining whether they are available on a regular basis or at a particular spatial or subnational level and where the indicator can be obtained from. Data may be obtained from administrative records from public institutions or from privately owned records of public data and information. The data need to undergo quality assessment and confidentiality checks before use
  5. Verification of the needs: A verification process of the local needs should be done at the local level

4.    Setting the production framework

In determining the framework for the production of subnational statistics there is a need to recognize the differing strengths and weaknesses of the various statistical agencies across the country in terms of staffing, expertise, statistical and technical infrastructures. Different roles can be performed by different institutions across the national statistical system.

For instance, a particular survey to be conducted in a particular local area, the methodology can be designed at the NSO central level; field data collection can be carried out by the local area statistical agency; survey supervision can be performed at a higher level by a regional statistics office; validation and processing can take place in a different region,etc.


5.    Integrating the Subnational Strategy for the Development of Statistics into the NSDS

While identifying the needs for subnational data, a distinction will be established between two categories of intersecting needs: those of local interest and those of national relevance. As regards the first category, local governments should be encouraged to develop their own Subnational Strategies for the Development of Statistics (SubNSDS). This may also include those local entities that are sovereign from the national government. The SubNSDS will feed into the NSDS process.

The second category includes needs that are common to all or several regions/local areas or are related to only one region or local area but are deemed of national interest. These needs will be identified at national level in consultation with regional and local bodies. The overall subnational component of the NSDS will result from the consolidation of SubNSDS on the one hand and the subnational component developed at national level on the other hand.