CBS starts unique initiative for Big Data research

With the launch of a Center for Big Data Statistics (CBDS), CBS is initiating cooperation of an unprecedented scale in the field of Big Data. The CBDS involves national and international parties from government, the business world, science and education all working together in the area of Big Data technology and methodology for the production of official statistics. The CBDS is launched officially on 27 September 2016.

“Faster, better and more detailed”

As CBS Director General Dr Tjark Tjin-A-Tsoi explains, “Big data offers the potential to make statistics production faster, better and more detailed, at lower costs and with less administrative burden. Many organisations are currently investing in big data technology. However, producing high quality statistics on the basis of big data is not all that easy; and safeguarding both the quality and the continuity is a great deal more complicated.”

“CBS the designated authority”

For decades, CBS has acted as the data hub for both policy and science. The organisation sees opportunities for innovation in statistics and the statistical process using big data technology. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte states: “As far as I am concerned, big data creates big opportunities. CBS is the appropriate authority in the Netherlands, but also internationally, to take on a pioneer role in this area.”

Prime Minister Rutte will be present on 27 September to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with South Korea’s official statistical organisation KOSTAT on their participation in the CBDS. Director General Tjark Tjin-A-Tsoi of Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and Commissioner Yoo, Gyeongjoon of Statistics Korea (KOSTAT) will enter into a more solid mutual agreement during the economic mission in South Korea from 26 to 28 September, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and State Secretary for Economic Affairs Martijn van Dam. Collaboration with KOSTAT will focus primarily on the methodological and technological aspects of using big data for statistical purposes.

Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp is equally supportive of the CBDS initiative. Mr. Kamp spoke of ‘pride’ regarding the CBDS launch as CBS made a preannouncement during the opening of the Brightlands Smart Services Campus on 12 September in Heerlen (speech in Dutch only).

Efficiency improvements

With the new centre, CBS aims to enhance timeliness of statistics production and boost the production of new statistics while also adding upgrading existing ones, for example by deepening to the regional or sectoral level. Tjin-A-Tsoi: ‘We will be able to deliver even better policy support while also aiming for significant efficiency improvements as we can achieve fully automated integration of data sources and flows.’

International partner network

The CBDS will kick off on 27 September with an international network of partners. These organisations have indicated they wish to enter into collaboration with CBS for ongoing development of big data technology, thus helping to produce faster, better and more detailed statistics.
Aside from KOSTAT, the following parties have joined the network:

De Nederlandsche Bank / Dutch CentralBank


World Bank

Ministry of Economic Affairs





Capgemini Nederland




Province of Limburg

Brightlands Smart Services Campus

Maastricht University

Leiden University

Centre for Innovation Leiden University


Amsterdam University

 Dutch Open University

Twente University

Michigan University

Maryland University

Zuyd University

Fontys University


Jheronimus Academy of Data Science (JADS)



Statistics Sweden (SCB)

Italian National Institute for Statistis (Istat)

Statistics Estonia (ES)

Statistics Finland

UK Office for National Statistics

Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia

Mr. Klaas Knot, President of the Dutch Central Bank (DNB) and collaborating partner in the CBDS, explains: “It makes very good sense for CBS and DNB to work closely together in this challenging area as well. Not only ‘rapid’ indicators - for example on prices - but also higher levels of detail in information are becoming increasingly important to central banks.”

Another party in the Netherlands who is presently very active in the area of big data is TNO. Paul de Krom, CEO at TNO, on partnership within CBDS: “CBS is an innovative player in the field of statistics and has the ambition to supplement traditional survey data with big data. At TNO we are currently studying ways to make big data applicable to industry and society within our programme “Making Sense of Big Data”. TNO is therefore pleased to collaborate with CBS and work towards reliable real time indicators on the basis of big data, which will further enhance decision-making in both the private and the public sector.”

Big Data and Sustainable Development Goals

In consultation with its partners, CBS will be working on a wide variety of projects at the CBDS. Among these are the mapping of economic growth, security, health, the labour market and Sustainable Development Goals. Director General Tjin-A-Tsoi: “Topics such as broad-based prosperity and the SDGs will play a distinct role at CBDS, since creating the hundreds of indicators involved requires the mobilisation of big data.”

Hugo von Meijenfeldt, National Coordinator Implementation Global Goals for the Netherlands, comments: “The UN Sustainable Development Goals are directing development toward sustainability world-wide, thus also in the Netherlands. I am pleased with CBS’ ambitions and I see real added value in the mobilisation of big data as it makes progress on these important goals measurable.”

For the World Bank, too, measuring advances on Sustainable Development Goals is essential. Says World Bank Executive Director Frank Heemskerk: “Intensified cooperation between CBS and the World Bank will result in the development of more solid data with which to measure poverty, inequality and progress on other sustainable development goals. High quality statistics will substantiate which sectors require the highest investments in order to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable progress.”

Academic partners

The universities of Maastricht, Leiden, Amsterdam and Twente, the Open University and the Jheronimus Academy of Data Science (JADS) are all academic partners in CBDS from the onset. Emile Aarts, the Rector Magnificus of Tilburg University and one of the initiators of the JADS, explains: “Big data is becoming widespread in all levels of society. This association will help corroborate newly acquired knowledge in the area of big data.”


During the processing of big data into statistics, CBS places privacy to the fore. Confidentiality is guaranteed at CBS, as again became evident recently when CBS received the Privacy Audit Proof Certificate from Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC). PwC conducted an audit based on the official Dutch Data Protection Authority standards, concluding that CBS complies with all relevant standards.


The Center for Big Data Statistics will operate from within CBS offices in Heerlen and The Hague. Project teams including CBS staff and representatives from partner organisations will avail of the facilities there while jointly working on big data projects.

Innovation portal

Updates on projects around big data will be reported by CBS on its Innovation portal:, where users will also be able to provide feedback. The projects in question are experiments which are not yet as mature as to be included in the production of mainstream statistics, but which do offer promising results.

Urban Data Centers

Last 22 September, CBS launched yet another initiative on statistics production in cooperation with Dutch municipalities by opening the first CBS Urban Data Center in Eindhoven. The Urban Data Centers will start by implementing innovations that form the output of the Center for Big Data Statistics. The city of Heerlen has also decided it will set up an Urban Data Center in cooperation with CBS, which is due to take shape on the Brightlands Smart Services Campus.

The Brightlands Smart Services Campus is another partner in the CBDS. CEO at Brightlands Smart Services Campus Mr. Peter Verkoulen announces: “I am very happy to be in a strategic partnership with CBS, our ‘next-door neighbour’ in Heerlen. The CBDS initiative is an enormous boost for the activities on our campus. Students, academics, start-ups and other companies and institutions, everyone is eager to start contributing to this initiative.”