UNFPA and the Department of Census and Statistics promote data-driven journalism on World Statistics Day

20 October 2016

Colombo, 20 October 2016: Quality data and statistics are imperative to making informed decisions. As countries and institutions embark on implementing the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, reliable and timely statistics and indicators are more important than ever; and with Sri Lanka’s recent achievement with the Right to Information, it is also vital that media personnel engage in accurate and credible reporting, backed by solid evidence and data.

Marking ‘World Statistics Day 2016’, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka supported the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) to deliver a media seminar for over 100 participants, including journalists, reporters, and media professionals from English, Sinhala, Tamil, and state-owned and private media institutions. The objective of the trilingual seminar was to share new indicators published by DCS and to raise awareness among the media on how to accurately read, interpret, and use data in reporting.

Speaking at the event, the State Minister for National Policies and Economic Affairs, Hon. Niroshan Perera, said: “Statistics are useful to identify changes that occur with time. They are useful to obtain economic, social, and cultural information. For the government, in order to make the right decisions and to have effective programmes and projects, we require the support of all stakeholders to ensure accurate data and credible statistics are provided.”

Noting the importance of evidence-based reporting by the media, the Director-General of DCS, Dr. A. J. Satharasinghe said: “Statistical-literacy is a type of literacy, such as computer-literacy. The role of the media is vital in increasing public awareness on statistic-literacy. In Sri Lanka, only a few people approach the authorities for statistical information. Therefore the media play an essential role in providing the public with accurate data and statistics.”

At the event, the UNFPA Representative, Mr. Alain Sibenaler, launched UNFPA’s global flagship publication, ‘State of World Population 2016’ by presenting copies to Hon. Niroshan Perera and Dr. A. J. Satharasinghe. This year’s publication focuses on the 10 year old girl, and how investing in her can change can triple a girl’s lifetime incomes, increase a nation’s economic growth and lead to a cycle of healthier, better educated children.

Speaking at the event, Mr. Sibenaler said: “I urge all partners, decision makers, and reporters to work together to ensure that necessary investments are made, that adequate technical capacity is built, and that new data sources are explored. We must all work together to ensure that a 10 year old girl – from the newspapers to the policy papers – is able to maximize her potential.”

Mr. Sibenaler also noted the importance of quality data, saying: “At UNFPA, data is at the heart of our mandate. We believe in evidence-based decision making; we believe in evidence-based policy making; and my dear friends from the media, we believe in evidence-based reporting. Why? Because quality data is at the root of informed decisions in societies, companies, institutions, and governments. And as media professionals, you play a fundamental role in ensuring that people can make informed decisions through accurate, credible, and evidence-based reporting.”

Other dignitaries at the event included the Secretary of the Ministry of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media, Mr. Nimal Bopage, the Secretary of the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs, Mr. M. I. M. Rafeek, other Ministry officials, media professionals, and statisticians.