Director General Ms. Angelique Berg: ‘Societal challenges are central’

/ Author: Arjan de Jong/Miriam van der Sangen
Angelique Berg, Director General of Statistics Netherlands
© A. Falter
On 10 March 2023, the Council of Ministers approved the new Multi-annual Programme of Statistics Netherlands (CBS) for the years 2024-2028. We spoke with Director General Ms. Angelique Berg on the production and contents of this programme.

Why does CBS produce a multi-annual programme and how did the 2024-2028 edition come about?

‘The world around is changing rapidly. These changes require a high degree of flexibility from CBS in order to deliver timely, reliable information and statistical services that provide insight into what is happening around us. To continue doing so, we need to recalibrate and set new strategic objectives from time to time. These have been included in our Multi-annual programme for 2024-2028.’

‘We want to match the needs that are felt within society, and so it was clear that we had to query our major stakeholders and users. For example, the various ministries, planning agencies, major data suppliers, our users’ councils and our Advisory Council. We held discussions with them in order to find out which societal, economic and political changes they have observed and what they believe are the implications for our work. We also took a close look at the recommendations made in a recent external evaluation of CBS and a European peer review, which included for example suggestions made around our publication policy and the availability of private data sources. In addition, CBS colleagues from all parts of the organisation gave us a lot of input. We also had a considerable exchange of views with our Board and determined the broad outlines based on our own analyses and all the information we had received over the previous months.

CBS staff in Heerlen
© CBS / Alrik Swagerman

What are the three primary objectives in the Multi-annual programme 2024-2028?

‘We’ve held talks with our Board about our own ideas as well as the results from the internal and external consultations. Based on that, we have established three strategic objectives: societal challenges are central, increasing access to data and maintaining high quality. As for the first objective: we would like to make statistical contributions to meet a number of major societal challenges, including housing, subversive crime, climate and sustainability. We aim to enter into data alliances with other organisations to manage information on these themes as fully and clearly as possible.’

‘As for the second strategic objective, we want to increase the accessibility and hence the use of our data. CBS has a lot of knowledge about data and what is needed to use them responsibly. This concerns storage, processing, linking and granting access to data; data security; and privacy protection. We are keen to make such knowledge available to public authorities and to science. To that end, we are improving our services in several areas, for example for researchers working with our secure microdata via Remote Access. The use of Remote Access services has increased significantly and is accompanied by the need for improved support. We would like to provide that support, but security must remain at least at the current level. StatLine is our online database containing all our statistical outcomes. The databank contains a myriad of data, but finding what you are looking for is not so easy. So that’s what we are going to work on. We also make our research results public through our own Open Data channel. The use of this channel has increased as well. Users need support for this channel and this requires extra effort from us.

‘Our third strategic objective is to maintain the high quality of our work. That is the basis of our reliability. To remain at the forefront and prepare our organisation for the future, we invest in our staff, our processes and IT. Where possible and necessary, we speed up the availability of statistical information. In doing so, the protection of personal data and the security of our data is essential.

Information service representatives answering media enquiries, CBS The Hague
© CBS / Nikki van Toorn

In what way will you concretely implement these objectives?

‘As a first step, we have prioritised a limited number of sub-objectives for 2024. For example, in 2024 we will focus on three societal challenges: poverty, the Green Deal and housing. Dedicated programme managers have been appointed for these topics. The starting point is to identify what constitutes these societal challenges: what are the policy goals and what information is relevant to them? Then we are going to pull together all the information we have on that challenge and check what information is available from other organisations. Then, if information is still missing, we will work with other parties to make sure it becomes available.
Furthermore, we are prioritising and planning to revamp our website and StatLine database in 2024. The same applies to the improvement of our microdata services. The coming months will be used to make plans for this concrete.’

CBS has recruited heavily for new personnel in recent years. This is bound to continue throughout the years ahead. Can you say something about this recruitment of new staff?

‘Yes, the labour market is tightening and it takes more effort but we still manage to recruit high-quality, committed new colleagues. I am very happy about that because we desparately need them, especially given the outflow due to retirement. It is important to be flexible to respond to changing needs of society. The way in which we collect, process and publish data is also constantly changing. That is why we pay a lot of attention to broadening knowledge and training our employees. Not only do we focus on the short term but certainly also on opportunities for the future. Being able to offer employees sufficient career opportunities is very important to us. We invest a lot of money and time in this.’