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Hosting New Zealand

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 On Thursday and Friday of last week, we hosted a delegation from New Zealand to discuss collaboration on using data to improve social policy. This all sounds ordinary: after all, we are very fortunate to collaborate with many countries, from Rwanda to Canada. Although we have good links with Stats New Zealand already, and I have been greatly impressed by the Integrated Data Infrastructure they have developed, this visit was like no other.

Back in June, I took a phone call from Simon Whitfield from the UK Government Office of Science. He had been approached by the British High Commission regarding an upcoming trip in July where our Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, would be visiting New Zealand to explore areas where the UK and New Zealand could further develop our relationship. On the agenda was access to and analysis of data and statistics in the cause of better public policy.

Within a matter of days, following an exchange of letters between our Prime Minister and theirs, we had arranged a visit to host a delegation. The delegation was led by Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister and also included Liz Macpherson, Government Statistician, Dorothy Adams, Chief Executive of the Social Investment Agency and senior officials from the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Social Development.

They arrived bright and early on Thursday in Newport. After a brief introduction from me, Tomas Sanchez shared experiences on data infrastructure before they visited the Data Science Campus and went onto enjoy curry Thursday in the canteen (with or without half and half). After lunch Jen Woolford took them through the work we are doing on health statistics and Zoe Hartland demonstrated where we are with data visualisation.

On Friday they were in London, starting with Rebecca Edgar at the Department for Education to discuss the benefits being reaped from the Longitudinal Educational Outcomes project and then going to the Ministry of Justice to see the Justice Data Lab in operation. Lunch at New Zealand House at Trafalgar Square on Friday was rather different to the day before. Our visitors were effusive in their praise for everyone they had met.

After lunch the delegation visited the Alan Turing Institute and then came to Drummond Gate to discuss legislation and data ethics with Pete Stokes and Simon Whitworth. It was a very intense two days which has enabled us to shape a future programme of work between our two countries that we are confident will deliver important benefits to both in terms of policy outcomes for our citizens.

John Pullinger, National Statistician