On-Line Access of Micro Data at the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Challenges and Future Directions
Siu-Ming Tam
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Belconnen, ACT, Australia

The Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) mission is to “assist and encourage informed decision making, research and discussion within governments and the community, by leading a high quality, objective and responsive national statistical service”.

Dissemination of micro data in the form of Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs), which represent the most detailed level of information available from the ABS, contributes significantly to this mission.

CURFs are released and authorised for user access at the discretion of the Australian Statistician under the Census and Statistics Act, 1905, which amongst other things, provides that information in the form of individual statistical records may be disclosed in a manner that is not likely to enable identification of a particular person or organisation.

Consistent with ABS legislation, CURFs are currently released in basic format via CD ROM, in expanded format via the secure Internet based, Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL) and in specialist format in data laboratories located in ABS premises (ABSDL).

Such access environments represent a good compromise between the two ends of the data protection spectrum, i.e. safe data and safe environment. Basic CURFs released in CDROM contain highly confidentialised data which may be accessed on the users' desktops, whereas specialist CURFs released in ABSDL contain detailed micro data which can only be accessed in tightly controlled environments. On the other hand, the RADL/expanded CURFs provide an access package somewhere in between the other two packages.

However, user feedback suggests they desire a more interactive environment for accessing micro data.

Recent evaluation of the statistical uses of CURFs suggested that some 60% of such uses are related to the generation of statistical tables. With the use of leading-edge perturbation methodology, this paper outlines the approach ABS is developing to provide a more interactive access to un-confidentialised micro data.

Keywords: Remote access data laboratory; Micro data; Table builder

Biography: As a First Assistant Statistician of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Dr Tam is currently head of the Integrated Collection and Dissemination Services Division, and has responsibility for all ABS household and business collections, as well as ABS dissemination services.

Dr Tam has a PhD in Statistics from the Australian National University, is an elected member of the International Statistical Institute, an Accredited Statistician of the Statistical Society of Australia, a member of the Steering Committee on Data Dissemination established by the United Nations Statistics Division, a past Vice President of the International Association of Official Statistics, and foundation editor-in-chief of the Statistical Journal of the International Association of Official Statistics.