CENTRAL Statistical Office (CSO) director of statistics Sean O’Brien says a strong public relations (PR) background is crucial for citizens to be receptive to methods of data collection.

The CSO collects, prepares and distributes data from various sectors including economics, agriculture, population, and national accounts, among others. It also previously did economic forecasting but on Thursday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said this function will be taken over by a new unit in the Finance Ministry.

O’Brien said it is common for some people to be unwilling to answer questions, especially when the CSO conducts the population and housing census, which is done every ten years. The most recent one was in 2011, which recorded TT’s population as 1.3 million. This census also records information such as levels of education, disabilities, martial status and ethnicity.

“It is often very receptive but it all depends on the level of PR that we put behind it. If I just show up on your doorstep and ask you a number of fairly invasive questions, you would not be receptive would you? But if you know that the data that we collect would actually help your life to become better, and the lives of your children be better, and your unborn descendants will benefit from this data, if that sort of message is portrayed and shown, I think the population will become a bit more receptive.”

O’Brien was speaking at the CSO headquarters, Port of Spain, at CSO Open Day on Friday, as part of a week-long series of celebrations in recognition of World Statistics Day which is today.

The event was open to the public and was aimed at educating on the importance of statistics, which the director said some people overlook. He said it helps empower TT’s “decision-makers.”

“In the absence of statistics, you are just left with life experience and your instincts and that has been proven to be inefficient when governing over people’s lives. What you need is official, robust statistics that are timely, accurate and relevant. That’s what we aim to provide here at the CSO.”

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