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Fundamental principles of statistics into broader use in society

Kuva: Risto Wuolle

The United Nations Statistical Commission has defined good principles for statistical work (Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics), which producers of statistical data around the world have followed in their activities. These fundamental principles will turn be 30 this year and their importance has gained strength in society over the years.

The significance and usability of data and information have increased enormously in society. Digitalisation, AI applications and other automation enable the collection of ever larger volumes of data into data pools, databases and registers. The dissemination of data has moved from conventional paper publications to online services, infographics, data visualisations and applications.  

Securing the rights of individuals and enterprises is, however, also important in the collection, sharing and good management of data. For instance, the debate on privacy protection has intensified along with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).   

Fundamental principles support information management  

The fundamental principles of statistical work form a good foundation for the management and dissemination of diverse information especially in the public sector. The fundamental principles define the rights and obligations of producers of statistics in society and the most important principles to be followed when compiling and publishing statistical data.   

The principles highlight professional ethics, objectivity, confidentiality, transparency and openness of production methods, use of standards and reliability, high quality and exhaustiveness of outputs.  

The principle of good information management requires open and transparent presentation of data sources, compilation methods and procedures for statistics to make it easier for data users to use and utilise the data.

These same requirements can be found in Finland, in the Public Information Management Act (906/2019), in slightly different terms. The main objective of the Public Information Management Act is to ensure uniform and high-quality management of the data held by the public authorities and data secure handling, utilisation and interoperability.

The Act requires that public administration actors describe their information management model. The model must include a description of the operating processes, databases and data contained in them, information systems, data release and data storage.   

Public administration promotes the opening up and utilisation of information  

An information policy report was prepared in Finland in 2018 under the Ministry of Finance. The information policy describes the required policy measures to enable efficient, secure and ethical utilisation of information. The information policy promotes the collection, opening, combining, sharing and storage of information, as well as bolsters data protection and data security in a manner that respects human rights and freedoms.  

Information policy objectives were taken into consideration in the current Government Strategic Programme of Finland and the project on opening up and using public data was launched under the leadership of the Ministry of Finance. The task of the sub-areas of the project is to define the strategic objectives for using and opening up data, promoting the availability of data, building the data quality framework and advancing the technical and semantic interoperability of data.   

The information policy, the project and the Public Information Management Act have some of the same objectives as the fundamental principles of statistics. The data should be easily usable, open, understandable, interoperable (e.g. harmonised concepts, classifications and unique identifiers), well described and of high quality. Only well-described data and methods, as well as high-quality data materials allow the correct analysis of the actual situation in evidence-based decision making.  


The author works in Statistics Finland's Partnership and Ecosystem Relations service area.

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