Tabulation and generation of vital statistics for national policy
Electronic data management and generation
The compilation, presentation and dissemination of data can be greatly improved through the use of information and communication technology (ICT), which should be introduced wherever appropriate. While computerisation of certain parts of the CRVS system has already happened in many countries, what is relatively new is that databases within the CRVS system are increasingly being interlinked. With the increased prevalence of the worldwide net and server-based solutions, which link registration offices in districts to national databases, it is possible to issue certificates in real time. Furthermore, hospitals that record births and deaths can now transmit these records electronically to the civil registration office.
Building a computerised national database from many regional data suppliers of vital events demands not only agreement on standardised tables, but substantial data management skills, including skills in quality control, data security and confidentiality assurance.
In many countries the civil registration agency compiles, and archives the data, but does not have the capacity to tabulate and publish the statistical data. This necessitates very close cooperation between the collecting and publishing agencies. Key to this collaboration is a comprehensive data management plan that describes the data elements and their ‘life cycle’ from collection point to processing, storing and archiving, and sharing.
Key elements of a potential data management plan would need to cover:
- Source and data descriptor of each data series to be processed and/or generated
- Methodology and standards applied to collection
- Description of storage and archiving
- Metadata dictionary with description of data definitions
- Standards adhered to ensure interoperation ability for data exchange
- Data security measures, including transfer and storage of sensitive data and recovery in case of system failure or attack.
When data are brought together in an integrated data repository and are well documented, users can query the data online, download, and manipulate it according to their needs. Increasingly sophisticated software is becoming available to help countries generate standardised reports – for example, Tableau is widely used by WHO for this purpose.