To help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff of national statistical organizations around the world are being required to work from home, creating challenges in managing workflow solutions and, in many cases, accessing tools and support from external partners.
Many organizations around the world are finding themselves in a position of having to decide how to move forward on planned conferences and meetings in the face of the current COVID-19 pandemic. This is the position that colleagues from the United Nations University Institute in Macau found themselves in with the 11th International Development Informatics Association conference (IDIA2020) planned for 25–27 March 2020. The organizing committee considered various options, including cancellation, postponement, or relocation (which was an option at the time), and ultimately decided on the virtual conference format.
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: https://www.unsdglearn.org/statistics/. 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.
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.
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.