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Sri Lanka: Department of Census and Statistics promotes LankaDatta exchanges with microdata users (November 2013)

Country / Regional Activity: Sri Lanka
Date of Event: 20/10/2013

The Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) of Sri Lanka hosted a Microdata Outreach Workshop in Colombo from October 20 - 23, 2013 with the support of the Accelerated Data Program, to promote LankaDatta and engage in dialogues with users on how to improve data availability, access and quality. The workshop was attended by fifteen users from nine different organizations and fifteen staff members from DCS representing each division. Lanka Datta is the repository of microdata produced by DCS, which holds over 350 data files from surveys in a variety of fields including demography, agriculture, industries, health and commerce. With the support from ADP, DCS has recently upgraded Lanka Datta with more comprehensive metadata and accessible microdata. DCS has also been revising its Microdata Access Policy to further improve the dissemination process and services to users. The workshop was opened by Mr. D.C.A. Gunawardena, Director General of Department of Census and Surveys (DCS), Professor Indralal De Silva of University of Colombo, and Ms. Gaye Parcon on behalf of ADP. Mr. Saman Weerasooriya of ICT department presented on what microdata are available and demonstrated how to use LankaDatta. The presentation was followed by participants exploring LankaDatta and discussing about data availability. Representatives of DCS were able to respond to users’ requests and inform them of the latest ongoing data collection. Mr. H. W. M. Jayaweersa of Data Dissemination Unit, introduced how DCS disseminates microdata and reasons for updating the existing dissemination policy. Users greatly welcomed the changes to the existing policy and made concrete suggestions to the new draft policy. On the second day of the workshop, Mrs. W.A. Chandani Wijebandara of the Sample Surveys Division explained the Labor Force Survey in detail, especially measures taken to improve the quality and timeliness of the survey. Ms. Dilhanie Deepawansa presented on the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES), focusing on the major changes made to the questionnaires and the rationales behind them. The presentation was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Ramani Gunatilaka and composed of Mr. J. A. D. J. Jayalath from Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC), Mr. H.R.Gunasekera of UNFPA-Sri Lanka, and Prof. Indralal De Silva of University of Colombo. The panelists discussed how they employ LFS and HIES data and issues they found, joined by other participants. Dr. Geetha Mayadunne from Centre of Policy Analysis (CEPA) presented her work on Estimation of Prevalence of Food Insecurity in Sri Lanka, illustrating the importance of microdata access for improving policymaking. After that, users consulted with DCS staff members representing the Population Census and Demography Division, Agricultural and Environmental Statistics, Industries and Construction Statistics, National Accounts Division, Price and Wages Division, Cartography Division, and Sample Surveys Division. The participants from both the user and producer side appreciated the two-day exchanges and expressed wishes for more regular mechanisms to sustain the dialogues.