Official Statistics in The Age of Data

By redesigning the user interface of Statfin, the official statistics database of Finland, the project aims to demonstrate how design could help the citizens interactively visualise the data, and how design could lower the threshold of transforming raw data into useful and comprehensive information.

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Redesign Statfin Database




The new nested list provides a comprehensive overview of each table. Only essential information would be shown at the first glance (e.g. period of data collection and categorical information). Clear, straightforward, so you never mess up.


On the current system, in order to request a result of the statistics, the users are required to explore through a long list of datasets, select one dataset from it, and then choose the variables they would like to see from several complex lists. It gives the users a sense of uncertainty, as they are not able to have a glance on the data ahead of seeing the final result.


After selecting the variables, the data is usually shown as a wide and long table that overflows the margin of the display. Nonetheless, the table also fails to provide a comprehensive overview of the data to its users. As a result, the users disappointedly find that they don’t know what to do with the data, not to mention to proceed any furthur analysis.


The new design provides a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) selector for variables. Once the selection of variables is modified, the graph/table shown on the right side would be updated simultaneously.




The redesign also provides a brand-new function that enable the users to compare the variables cross the datasets. The aim of this function is to provide the users a more intuitive way to see possible relations between different variables, and not to be constrained by the official categories.


Export &


Export, social networks, embed codes, and permanent URL are intuitively integrated in a single modal. The embed link function can make the experience of interactive graph consistent on other online publishing platform such as Wordpress.


The current formats includes the mainstream table format such as csv, xml, and xlsx. The users can also download the image of visualised chart. There is no other options such as embed interactive charts, and high-resolution image for printing.

Official Statistics in The Age of Data

In the age that data is power

The Facebook data leak and Mark Zuckerberg's Senate hearings reminded us that data has become a form of private property and, like the other capital forms in the capitalist society, has become a source of social power. Facebook has been widely criticized for its opacue policy on acquisition and use of data from its users, and ,as it has gained a monopoly position on the market of social networks, market failure has happened — you almost have no other choice even if you found yourself one of the victims of the data leak. Fortunately, in the democracies, there are still some opportunities for supervision and regulation by the government – ​​even if the outlook still appears to be full of uncertainty.

The resistance against the centralisation of power

Compared to the companies like Facebook which provide services to users in exchange for their data, the states collect people’s data based on the legality and legitimacy of their own governance. Civil society tends to have a higher standard and more expectation for the transparency and openness on operation of state machine than the counterparts on internal corporate governance.

State machine utilises data from their citizens to plan policies and assess the outcome of implementations. Even though governments do not make captical out of data in general, the use of data still underlies and consolidates the political power of states and its centralisation.

If citizen's capability of acquiring data from the government is seriously limited and this asymmetry of power deteriorates, they would not be able to understand public affairs in a well-informed manner, and their trust in governments and capabilities of civil participation would be eroded.

This is why open data is so important in the age that information is power. It has also become a key indicator of the development of democracy. When people have the right and ability to know, they can have a common cognitive basis for discussing public affairs and thus enjoy better democratic participation qualities.

How to assess the quality of official statistics

There are lots of data from government have been released, but still few common standards agreed on how to assess its usabilities. For example, one of the most basic and oldest types of information collected by regimes is statistics. The mastery of various types statistical data reflects the degree of rationality and modernization of governance of a regime. In general, most of the common measurement methods focus merely on the quality of statistical data, such as the indicators (e.g. Relevance of Concept, Accuracy of Estimates, Timeliness and Punctuality in Disseminating Results, etc) used by Eurostat and by the OECD.

In contrast, the usability for transforming data into information has been long neglected. It could also be seen as decentralisation of the power. How "data" can be used as valuable "information" is equally important as the the accessibility of data (Kenett & Shmueli, 2016). A good quality of official statistical data doesn’t guarantee qualified use/transformation of data. The current measurement for assessment may be just beneficial for the professionals who are familiar with how to utilise raw data for further analysis.

Design for decentralising the power of transforming data to information

As we all know the power of design in demonstrating the data, design can play a more active role — not only visualise the data, but provide tools for transforming data to information. I can see a potential of design intervention for empowering transformation.

Design could lower the thresholds for citizens to transform the data into forms comprehensive to them, and thus decentralise the power of data. The citizens should be able access, understand, and use the original data on their own, instead of merely being fed with post-truth within their social bubbles. The redesign of the official statistical database interface, which was built with IBM's Carbon Design System, is an attempt.

Eurostat. (2003). Assessment of quality in statistics — Definition of Quality in Statistics.
Kenett, R. S., & Shmueli, G. (2016). From quality to information quality in official statistics. Journal of Official Statistics, 32(4), 867–885.
OECD. (2003). Quality Framework for OECD Statistics.

Design Principle

The project of redesign statfin is based on the three principles, which aim to decentralise the power of transforming data to information by lower the threshold of information production.

Visualisation First

Always visualise raw data at the first glance, than provide tools for further investigation.

Intuitive Interaction

Reduce cognitive load and keep the interface intuitive and effective

Seamless Experience

Make experience consistent while producing, interacting, and viewing information

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I am keen to know how do you think of this project. Any comment would be highly appreciated!

About Me

Yentsen Liu

Master Student in Collaborative and Industrial Design at Aalto University

I am an enthusiastic designer and learner with strong interests in digital design for activism, democracy, and governance. And, I am looking for job & collaboration opportunities!

This webpage is only for the showcase session of Visualizing Knowledge Conference 2018. Please visit my website for more of my works by scanning the QR code or by the address shown below. :-D

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