When Prince Mihailo tells you: How important statistics are in the era of fake news

There is an old (and quite stale) joke that there are only three types of lies in the world: ordinary lies, damn lies and - statistics. Joke aside, today's systems for collecting, processing and archiving data are very different from the techniques used in the past.


Digitalisation and data management through modern information systems and tools are now being pursued, and the modernisation of the entire system requires significant resources and a different approach. That's why cynical and witty comments about statistics are simply not valid any more. We talked about the challenges, experiences and support of the EU through projects with Mr Miladin Kovačević, director of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia.

"The workplace and the job I do were created by Prince Mihailo Obrenović, back in 1862. An urban legend says that he noticed that the biggest confusion arose when people argued about the same things using different numbers as trump cards. That year, he founded the department of statistics with the aim of providing information that could, as it was said, be accepted and used without asking," Kovačević reminds us of the history of statistics in Serbia and the imperishable value of accurate information through the centuries.

"This is still the strongest and most sober description of statistics for me and my associates. The traditionally good reputation of the Statistical Office, both domestically and internationally, imposes special responsibility in the era of fake news, alternative facts and half-truths."

Kovačević emphasises the importance of the digital environment and trends in the field:

"Methods and tools for analysis and data collection are constantly evolving, making more and more information available for the use in real time. We have reached a point where citizens, businesses and the Serbian Government not only need to be informed, but it is necessary for all them to have quality information in real time and in understandable forms. Without that, I believe, we run the risk of being data-rich and information-poor at the same time."

The director of the SORS emphasises that good cooperation through EU projects is important for the further development of services provided by the Statistical Office.

"Through IPA projects, we are creating not only new areas of statistics, but also new young leaders who will lead our institution and Serbia in the future," says Kovačević.

"Each project also implies close cooperation with eminent European experts and thinkers in the field of statistics and research," says the director of the SORS.

"The assessment of the European Commission is that the Statistical Office is the institution of the utmost trust, highly harmonised with the standards of the European Union. Partnership with the European Union enables the improvement of institutions with the aim to further develop Serbia as a modern and democratic state."

Censuses of population and agriculture, by the way, are the biggest activities supported by the EU within the national programme, to which the EU contributes with 20 million euros in non-refundable funds.

The support of the European Union for public administration reforms in Serbia is worth over 200 million euros from 2000 until today. Funds intended for public administration are used for professionalisation of administration, development of electronic services, management of public finances and improvement of the work of local self-governments and independent institutions. Public administration reform is one of the most important elements of Serbia's EU accession process, and in 2014 it was put in the forefront of negotiations. A modern and professional public administration is a key element for each EU member state to effectively implement laws and to transparently manage EU funds. 

Last updated: July 18, 2024, 11:52