May. 27, 2020


Abdulla Ahmed Al Suwaidi

UAE, Abu Dhabi

Abdulla Ahmed Al Suwaidi

Director General, Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi (SCAD)

SCAD's vision is to produce easy-to-use statistics and data to help Abu Dhabi's leadership, attract FDI, and engage the youth.

BIO

Before joining SCAD in 2018, Abdulla Ahmed Al Suwaidi worked with tech start-up firms, sovereign wealth funds and oil and gas companies. He served as the director of economic and energy affairs at the Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority, where he led a team that conducted targeted research in order to provide strategic economic policy advice to the senior leadership in Abu Dhabi. Prior to which he worked extensively on several critical policies of the UAE, such as the nuclear power plant project and bilateral energy agreements and concessions. Al Suwaidi is a graduate of Suffolk University, Boston, with a BA in international economics. He also holds a master's degree in security and strategic studies.


How important is the role of data collection?
Data plays an integral role in society; it facilitates policy development and supports decision-makers in making effective choices. As a result, governments throughout the world utilize data. At SCAD, we have produced more than 1,800 indicators across various domains and sectors of the economy. We have targets to reach 4,200 indicators. This work contributes to the overall economy. It supports the various departments across the Abu Dhabi government and Abu Dhabi Executive Council. Looking more broadly at the economy, by having an accessible, transparent, local official data source, international investors have a clearer sense of the opportunities in Abu Dhabi.

How are you working to change the culture and mindset around data collection?
In our daily lives, we use data for a whole range of things. We are subconsciously making decisions based on data. Perhaps as a society, we sometimes take this for granted. Needless to say, it is crucial to demonstrate the importance of data to both the public and private sectors as well as members of the general public, the youth, and decision-makers. It is equally essential to make the data interesting and accessible to non-experts. Analysis should be based on facts, even if individual stakeholders have differing theories or views. Overall, this supports an effective and balanced decision-making process.

How does the existence of SCAD ensure that bias is reduced?
Bias is often described to be a deviation from the truth that may occur in the collection, analysis, interpretation, or publication of data. To ensure that bias is reduced, SCAD conducts the collection storage, analysis, and dissemination of official statistics in accordance with international standards and ethics. It is the core mandate of SCAD to conduct statistical surveys without prejudice of national statistical work. What's more, in SCAD's capacity as an independent regulator, the transparency of available data is improved.

How do you see AI playing a role in the interpretation of data? Moreover, how can technology serve to attract young statisticians to this career?
AI, digitalization, and other innovative technological trends are certainly buzzwords. SCAD carefully monitors the developments in areas such as AI and how these might have practical use cases for the organization. Overall, we are open to using resources and initiatives that help us deliver on our mandate. An interesting case for using AI in data is its ability to track enumerators in the field, with one application being able to analyze how households build trust with enumerators. SCAD can approach this technology advantageously thanks to the volume of data we have. What's more, innovative technology is a way of attracting young talent to the organization. Looking ahead, we want to engage fresh minds, especially in research and development. By having a culture of innovation, we are poised to advance as an organization. At present, we engage young statisticians through scholarship and secondments. In addition to this, we collaborate with other leading statistical organizations worldwide in the area of knowledge transfer. We have sent some of our people to countries such as Germany, South Korea, the US, and Singapore. These multicultural exchanges enable personal as well as professional development.

Are there any specific international models or standards that SCAD follows?
Like any statistics agency in the world, statisticians have standards. We follow international standards set by the IMF and UN, as well as our national agendas. Our first priority is to the national agenda, as our goal is to contribute to the Abu Dhabi government. SCAD participates in international events related to statistics, and we attend the UN's international statistics conference every year. SCAD has a deep awareness of international best practices. We aim to acquire new technologies and deploy these in Abu Dhabi, as long as they are in line with the laws and regulations of the UAE.

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