The Fiji Rugby Sevens Team continued to excel since the onset of COVID-19 - they won the 2020 Olympics, the World Rugby Sevens Series and are currently ranked 3rd in the world. At the same time, the Pacific National Statistics Offices have undertaken an ambitious census and survey programme and have similarly excelled while household surveys stalled in the rest of the world. Like the Olympics in Sevens Rugby, census is the peak event on a Government Statistician’s round robin of household surveys. In the interim, there is the World Sevens Series, or in the statistics collections world, a series of surveys, including, household income and expenditure (HIES), multiple indicator cluster (MICS), agriculture and labour. Since the imposition of global travel restrictions in March 2020, the Tokyo Olympics were delayed and the World Sevens Series cancelled, but the Pacific region’s household survey programme carried on.
During this time, the Census and Survey Technical Support (CSTS) team of the Pacific Community (SPC) provided remote technical support to the National Statistics Offices of the Pacific region in their round robin of household surveys. Since March 2020, the CSTS team has supported the implementing 10 censuses and 7 HIES.
Like the International Rugby Board (IRB), the Pacific Statistics Methods Board (PSMB) sets the rules, the Heads of Planning and Statistics (HOPS) sets regional statistics development priorities, and the SPC's Statistics for Development Division (SDD) is the statistical system leader supporting the coordination of the Pacific census and survey calendar, and donors and development partners. And just like a Sevens Rugby team, the CSTS team consists of 7 members – two programmers, two statisticians, an economist, a GIS specialist and a data scientist – who have, since March 2020, worked with the National Statistics Offices of the Pacific to tackle their census and survey aspirations despite being forced to play a virtual game because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in an environment where the collection of data across the vast and remote Pacific populations is even tougher than getting across the try-line defended by a Pacific rugby player.