Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Statistics • COVID-19 response

About this website

This website provides a space for the global statistical community to share guidance, recommended actions, tools and best practices to ensure the operational continuity of data collection programmes by National Statistical Offices, and to address issues of open and timely access to critical data needed by governments and all sectors of society to respond to the global COVID-19 crisis.


The global COVID-19 crisis is affecting critical operations across the entire global statistical system. National and international statistical organizations need to take immediate action to ensure the continuity of key statistical compilation activities and the continued availability of data to inform emergency mitigation actions by governments and all sectors of society.

Senior management in statistical organizations are working together with their own front-line managers and IT teams, and with partners at the national and global levels, to deal with the current emergency. This includes:

  • Establishing new procedures and workflows, collaborating in virtual teams, and implementing secure remote data access and data exchange capabilities for staff members of National Statistical Offices, providers of data inputs and the users of statistical outputs to remain effectively linked together throughout the statistical value chain.
  • Adapting and innovating data production methods and processes to ensure continuity of major official statistical programmes
  • Addressing the increased need for data openness and accessibility to meet the urgent demand for reliable and accurate information on the spreading and impact of the virus as well as its impact on people’s lives and all sectors of the economy.

Stakeholders form across the global statistical community are ready to support National Statistical Offices to address multiple challenges of the current crisis. As part of this effort, the United Nations Statistics Division is leading a collaborative effort with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and Open Data Watch, to develop this website to share guidance, best practices, information resources and tools to help statistical organizations function during an emergency situation in which most of their staff is suddenly unable to work on-site.

Ensuring continuity

Rapid adaptation of data collection, processing and dissemination methods to ensure continuity of key statistical programmes.

Challenges of introducing new technologies

National Statistical Offices are being challenged to introduce telephone-based interviewing and web-based self-reporting techniques at once for many critical data collection operations—such as population and housing, agricultural, and economic censuses, as well as household, business and other types of surveys. In many cases, they need to do it without the benefit of prior experience and with very limited time to conduct detailed analysis and testing of the different alternatives.

Read on

From face-to-face interviews to telephone interviews and web-based self-reporting

In an effort to contain the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, many governments are imposing severe restrictions on the mobility of their populations, disrupting field statistical data collection operations and threatening the ability of National Statistical Offices to deliver high-quality, timely and cost-effective statistical outputs.

Impact of COVID-19 on World Population and Housing Census Programme

As part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations Statistics Division, in its role as Secretariat of the 2020 World Population and Housing Census Programme, is compiling a country-by-country overview of the pandemic’s impact on census-taking activities in the year 2020. This information is updated daily with details provided by the census managers from countries.

Working remotely

Guidance and possible approaches to address managerial and IT challenges for operational continuity during the emergency situation.

Statistics e-learning

With a substantial number of statisticians not being able to travel and working from home, e-learning is probably the best tool for continued learning and acquiring new skills. Many international agencies, regional training institutes and national statistical offices are providing e-learning courses and other learning materials. This can be difficult to navigate, however, not knowing who provides what. An online gateway was therefore recently launched which is meant to help in navigating available courses: Different agencies are there providing key information of their courses and a link to their own pages where one can register for the course in question.

Cloud computing for operational continuity and disaster recovery

Today, cloud computing stands out as a key element of an operatinal continuity and disaster recovery plan for statistical organizations, particularly in the face of the disruption national and global statistical systems caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Due to its reliance on hardware-independent virtualization technology, cloud computing enables organizations to quickly back up data, applications, and even operating systems to a remote data center, and to deploy them to multiple users distributed in many different locations.

Telecommuting arrangements for operational continuity

To limit the COVID-19 epidemic, governments in many countries are requiring all or most of their workforce to stay home. For national and international statistical organizations, this raises the prospect of a protracted period of time during which the vast majority of their operations will have to rely on telecommuting arrangements with their staff. This in turn creates huge challenges in order to manage “a very large and sudden spike” in the number of staff needing to work remotely, even for organizations that already have experience supporting a limited number of telecommuters.

Data solutions

Guidance and possible approaches for the production of timely data to monitor the evolution and impacts of COVID-19.

Better disaggregated data to assess the implications of COVID-19 on women and men

In order to measure and monitor differences in Covid-19 incidence and fatality rates between women and men, data disaggregated, as a minimum, by sex, age groups and geographical areas are urgently needed. Collecting and disseminating additional data on employment-or lack of occupation-to capture the most vulnerable workers, household type (one person, couples without children, couples with children, lone parents, extended family), and access to social protection and to mobile and virtual (health, education and financial) services during physical distancing and/or isolation is also strongly recommended.

Useful links

Initiatives and resources provided by agencies of the UN system and beyond, including the regional economic and social commissions and stakeholders from private sector, academia, and civil society.

Call for action: COVID-19 data collaboratives

No one country or sector can overcome COVID-19 alone: this deadly pandemic requires swift and coordinated multi-stakeholder collaboration and knowledge sharing. Numerous data collaboratives and partnerships are happening beyond the official UN system. The Governance Lab has created a living repository for data collaboratives with the aim to build a responsible infrastructure for data-driven pandemic response.

Open data

Resources to support and encourage national statistical offices and other data producers to leverage and use open data .

Disseminate and incentivize data use

National statistical offices need to focus on disseminating open data in a way that facilitates and incentivizes data use to contribute to the fight against the pandemic. National statistical offices should provide data on health resources and monitoring efforts using well-designed websites or data portals that are easy to find and navigate, include data visualizations, and provide a variety of download formats. The resources below provide guidance on disseminating and incentivizing the use of data.

Publish existing data following open data guidelines

Identifying existing datasets for priority dissemination is the first step to leveraging open data for action during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than focus on collecting new data, national statistical offices should locate existing useful data from traditional and non-traditional sources and publish them while adhering to open data standards to maximize access and usability. This section identifies resources to understand the state of open statistical data in a country, examples of data published by others that are critical to understanding COVID-19, and initiatives underway that use data to stop the pandemic.

Encourage use of data and increase impact

During the COVID-19 outbreak, the demand for information from policymakers and citizens will be higher than ever, but connecting people to the data, encouraging use, and creating impact requires guidance and action by national statistical offices. Data providers and communicators bear the responsibility of connecting users to the information they need. National statistical offices must facilitate this connection. The resources in this section provide insight on how to encourage the use of data, monitor its uptake and impact, and further increase impact.