The impact of COVID-19 on data collection was immediately felt when OECS NSOs had to suspend the conduct of household surveys that were scheduled during the period of enforcement of social distancing protocols. Household surveys are traditionally conducted using face-to-face interviews at the residence of the selected respondents. Switching to another data collection mode, like using the telephone, could not be immediate since OECS NSOs had neither the capability nor the experience to do so. Official surveys using the telephone are relatively cheaper to conduct compared to those conducted using face-to-face interviews.
The collaboration with the World Bank produced a one-day virtual training workshop on 4 May with participation from forty-two statisticians from OECS NSOs, and the NSO of the Turks and Caicos Islands. The training focused on using the telephone to conduct the labour force survey - the results of which is used to calculate the unemployment rate.
COVID-19 has exposed the imperative to strengthen NSO institutionally and technically, and to make them agile and responsive. Regarding the use of telephone to conduct household surveys, institutionally, it may be necessary to amend statistical legislation to allow NSOs to use a variety of modes to collect data. Technical strengthening for telephone surveys would have to include ways for the NSOs to sustain the training and guidance they receive. The OECS Commission will continue to collaborate with development partners for statistics to support OECS NSOs to adapt their operations to the COVID-19 era.
This workshop contributes to the availability of and access to country comparable social data which is aligned to the objectives of the OECS Regional Strategy for Development in Statistics (RSDS), strategic priority 3: Join the Data Revolution. Launched in 2017, the OECS RSDS is the region’s 14-year statistical development master plan for the advancement of data and official statistics.