What interesting trends did NCSI decide to measure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
In 2020, we did not stop gathering data, though many other countries did. We did the 2020 census, which was a major project, though it went smoothly, and we even broke the global record by publishing all our data in 48 hours. COVID-19 changed the culture of thinking, and we decided we needed to update many things. It showed that we need to move toward automation in our work. As a statistics agency, we move more with opinions than facts. We want to gauge people's attitude with COVID-19. It was an interesting research, and we shared it with the policymakers. We seek to combine opinion with facts. It is not necessary to survey people in person, so we have a call center that gathers information. Then, we connect it with the data and bring both together. Quality assurance is extremely important, so we also try to reduce errors of collection by having many data sources. Policymakers can then see what the data and people say, as sometimes numbers do not tell us everything.
What other innovative statistical tools are you using at the institute right now?
The statistical law in Oman gives us the right to acquire data from any entity, so we bring the data together and standardize them, because if the data is collected differently, it cannot be analyzed and compared. We also try to work with big data. Oman is leading in big data in terms of mobiles. In 2020, we were able to use mobile data to track international tourism, internal tourism, mobility, and even major populations in small localities. From this data, you can see how many people are somewhere in a day and track the trends in tourism. According to the UN, we were the first country in the world with this technology.
How can you serve international businesses and investors with your services?
2020 for NCSI was a successful year, as we were the second country in the world to enable open access to data. The census and big data are open access and available online, so businesses can see where, when, and what they can invest. We have a website and a mobile app called Manafeth where one can find information about international trade of commodities. They can see where the opportunities lie and what Oman imports from each country in terms of quantity, cost, and regions.
How important is increasing the amount of research in Oman to achieving Vision 2040?
One of our responsibilities is to be ready to measure progress. There is already a target for 2040; therefore, it is important for policymakers to know how we are moving toward the target. We are preparing to measure all these indicators, and we have built methodologies that not only apply to Oman but are international. It is important that our indicators follow international methodologies, so they can be compared with other countries. In 2021, we are comparing data with that from 2020. The pandemic has affected many businesses; many indicators show this, and the trend can be seen worldwide. The great news is that the tourism sector, for example, was affected instantly, but it also bounced back quickly.
How is Oman performing in regard to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
We are not able to measure all the SDG goals, and there is much more to be done. No country was able to measure all the SDG goals, with Europe able to only measure 60% of the indicators. We are trying to use administrative data, as the collection of data is expensive. We are aiming for 82% of our data to be from administrative sources and the field and opinion to be 16%. With the SDGs, we have achieved housing sector and education, but there are other indicators pending.