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Media fails to help public understand stats better

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Old 16-07-2013, 10:18 AM   #1
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Stellenbosch – Statistics South Africa may make available more statistics to the public than many other countries, but much of it remained locked away because of the failure of the media to use the data to write more about the country’s challenges and successes, the Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Planning, Trevor Manuel, said on Monday.

Addressing the Isibalo Symposia on Evidence-based Decision Making hosted in Stellenbosch by Statistics SA, Manuel said it helped to have intermediaries such as the media that can analyse and assist many people better understand statistical reports and data.

He questioned whether it was not perhaps because of the country’s education system that encourages too little curiosity and enquiry that not more statistical reports were brought to the fore sufficiently.

“Or perhaps we can get away without the basis of having to persuade using the facts,” he added.

Manuel said despite this, Statistics SA made available to the public a number of regular statistics reports such as the monthly gross domestics product (GDP) figures, Quarterly Labour Force Survey and the Mortality and Cause of Death Report.

Added to this, Census 2011 data could be accessed through various apps and products such as My Ward My Council.

Manuel also stressed the importance of policymakers using statistics to help create a better South Africa.

“Policymakers that aren’t encouraged to use available datasets that should regard both progress and obstacles will not meet the lofty ideals articulated in our Constitution,” he said.

Turning to the National Development Plan (NDP), Manuel said although the plan was not very statistical itself, it had none the less been informed by statistics.

However, at times policymakers failed to use statistics to make evidence-based decision making, he said.

“Sometimes it’s a consequence of decision makers acting as if they do not need statistics because they have the answers even before the questions are released.

“Sometimes it may well be a consequence of ignorance, of people expecting to have access to information, but who simply do not. Or sometimes it may be the consequence of decision makers not caring, because there are no consequences,” he said.

Also addressing delegates, Statistician-General Pali Lehohla said statistics was one thing that needed to be mobilised under the NDP so that the asymmetry of information could be put to rest. –
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