Blaise: CBS software, unique in the world for 30 years already

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Blaise software developed by Statistics Netherlands (CBS). On that occasion, CBS is hosting the next ‘International Blaise Users Conference’ (IBUC) from 4 to 6 October 2016. Users can attend workshops and a training session before and after the conference where they will learn how to derive optimum benefit from the latest version of Blaise. We spoke with the promoters and users of Blaise.

Unique the world over

Harry Wijnhoven and his colleague Marcel van der Steen have Blaise in their portfolio at CBS. They are jointly responsible for expanding the users’group of Blaise worldwide. Wijnhoven: ‘Blaise was developed at CBS in the 1980s and is now being used by 140 different institutions and people in 40 different countries. Users are typically statistical institutes and researchers at universities.’ The software supports the processes of data collection and data processing. For example, you can use it to create an electronic questionnaire which can be completed online by interviewers and respondents. Wijnhoven: ‘Blaise is particularly ideal for creating the most complex questionnaires, which makes it unique in the world. Blaise holds 30 years of knowledge and experience accumulated at CBS and other national statistics agencies around the world, both in ITC and in methodology.’

Platform independent

Blaise is a software platform in constant development. In 2014, CBS launched its latest version: Blaise 5. Unlike its predecessor, this version is suitable for various platforms including Windows, iOS and Android. ‘This is important as more and more people are using smartphones and tablets with various operating systems. At the request of both internal and external users, Blaise 5 contains added functionalities to enhance user-friendliness and performance, among other things. The latest version is also more flexible than its predecessor, and includes for example a generic layout system and an adaptive design. This enables users to make adjustments according to their own preferences,’ says Wijnhoven.

Experiences of Statistics Norway

Hilde Degerdal works at Statistics Norway and is a heavy user of Blaise. ‘Our statistical bureau has been working with Blaise since 1991 already. We started with data editing and in 2006 we produced our first internet questionnaire using Blaise. We mainly use the software to create questionnaires for individuals and for households.’ Degerdal sums up a number of advantages offered by Blaise: ‘We can create quite complex questionnaires. We do receive an adequate amount of support when needed. Exchanging experiences with other users is a smooth process. Furthermore, we have the possibility to easily fit in components of the Blaise software into our own systems.’ Statistics Norway has worked with the new version, Blaise 5, since 2014. ‘This version certainly is an improvement on the previous one, especially the layout part.’ What does require additional work according to Degerdal are further improvements in compatibility and speed. This explains why CBS has invested even more in Blaise over the past two years.

Specific needs

As van der Steen indicates, Blaise is mainly used by statistical institutes and universities. ‘CBS wants to further promote Blaise by actively looking for more future users. We are of course interested in their specific wishes, so we can incorporate these while developing Blaise further. CBS is also taking concrete steps to enable university students both at home and abroad to work with Blaise. In this way, it can contribute to the development of future employees in the world of statistics.’

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