Official IT systems too slow to cope with major economic data

Tim Wallace
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OFFICIAL data releases may be too big for the Office for National Statistics’ computer systems to handle, watchdog the UK Statistics Authority has warned.

That means market participants using alternative data sources like news wires may have quicker access to the figures, like GDP estimates, than users going through the ONS website.

Such problems with the site breach the principle of equality of access on which the ONS is supposed to operate.

The Authority recommends the data instead be released in several chunks to make sure the systems can handle it.

Typically data is released at 9.30 by the ONS.

Under the proposals from the Statistics Authority, only the headline numbers on major data releases would go out at 9.30.

They would be followed by the full text of the release at 10.00, then the data tables at 10.30.

“Late release of data on the website can cause annoyance to users and reputational damage to ONS,” the Statistics Authority said.

“An argument can be made for some degree of flexibility if this would help to avoid delays due to pressure on the website, and hence promote equality of access in practice.”