October 5, 2016 / 5:02 PM / 10 months ago

New Canada statistics head: centralized system has more benefits

3 Min Read

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Statistics Canada will continue to work with a centralized technology system that has better confidentiality and security, the new head of the agency said on Wednesday in a blog post that sought to address the concerns that spurred his predecessor's resignation.

Anil Arora became the country's chief statistician last month after the former head of Statistics Canada, Wayne Smith, quit over concerns that changes to the data infrastructure were compromising the agency's independence.

In an arrangement under the previous Conservative government, responsibility for StatCan's informatics infrastructure was transferred to Shared Services Canada, the department that oversees information technology services government-wide.

Smith told Reuters in an interview that the changes have put the release dates of major economic reports at risk.

StatCan releases the country's official economic data on everything from jobs to trade. The reports are closely watched by markets and investors.

In Wednesday's post on Statistics Canada's blog, Arora said the benefits of a centralized system outweigh the risks, though he acknowledged there were bumps and setbacks at times.

"We live in a connected world. Organizations can no longer afford to have duplicative subsystems, because they are not optimal," Arora said.

He said centralized systems are more cost-effective and offer higher levels of confidentiality and security compared to having many different systems.

If there are capacity issues, StatCan will work with Shared Services to address them, Arora said. His primary goal is to make sure StatCan remains a credible and "trustworthy source of statistics through our independence," he said.

A senior official at Shared Services told reporters last month that StatCan data is safely stored and cannot be accessed by outsiders.

Arora said one of his immediate tasks will be to work with the new Liberal government to fulfill its election promise to reinforce the agency's independence.

Nonetheless, he noted that while the agency already works independently in practice, most countries with major national statistical agencies have put those practices into law.

Legal independence would allow that agency to get on with what it does best, Arora said.

Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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