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Why do we need statistics?

Statistician General at the Namibia Statistics Agency, Dr John Steytler

Statistics is becoming increasingly more important in today’s fast-paced times. People use statistics in order to make sense of the facts and figures that have been collected through research. Right here in Namibia there is the Labour Force Survey and as a matter of fact, right at this moment the Namibia Census of Agricultural (NCA) is taking place. These activities all provide the people, lawmakers and organisations with data. This data is turned into bite-sized chunks so people can understand it; statistics is at the basis of these bite-sized chunks of information. We are constantly being bombarded with charts, graphs, and listings of various types in an attempt to provide us with succinct information to make quick decisions. Consumers, politicians and business want to know instantly; What car to buy? Where will the economy go? Who or what will be popular next week, month or year?

Without the use of statistics it would be very difficult to make decisions based on any data collected. The questions listed above can more easily be answered if there is a solid foundation on which to base decisions as consumers, politicians and organisations.  Without statistics we have no way of making an educated decision. The data and the use of statistics provide the tool to decide. It gives a solid foundation on which to base decision, big or small. It is extremely important for a researcher to know what statistics they want to use before they collect their data. Otherwise data may be collected that is unusable. Unfortunately, when this happens it results in a loss of information, time, and money, something that is to be avoided at all costs.
A lot of people may think they will never use or understand statistics, but it finds a way into our lives, and you will be using it, without even knowing it. Almost any job will require some basic knowledge of statistics. Government elections are a good example; interpreting who won a country’s elections is purely based on statistics. Just think otherwise of sports; boxing for example. Statistically one boxer has won more fights than the other…that is a statistical fact on which fans pin their hopes or imagine an ‘underdog’ to perform a miracle. Like any other tool, statistics can be used or misused, however if you know some of the basic statistical concepts, you will be in a better position to evaluate the information you have been given. Buying a product or a service based on cold hard data and statistical information puts the consumer in the driving seat. The same goes for governments, corporations and organisations when needing to make decisions that affect the course of economic growth or policy. Simply stating that something a certain way, does not make it so. People need proof to be convinced and there’s no stronger truth than data which has been collected and mathematically processed into statistics. Statistics are important for us as a society as it allows us to make well-balanced decisions based on researched facts. It allows us as consumers, politicians and corporations to plan our future direction and stops us from making major mistakes.
Data, numbers, opinions and ‘facts’ are all around us, but only if the statistical data is trustworthy we can then feel safe in the knowledge that we have taken the data, analysed it and only then weighed up the options. Statistics allows our head to do the most important thinking and decision-making. Let the heart make your final decision, but not before your head has analysed and understood the statistical data. It will stand you in good stead and that is why we all need and use statistics on some level.

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