China turns to big data to gauge inflation

Updated: 2013-12-06 10:58

By Meng Jing (China Daily)

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Through teaming up with high-tech companies, China's National Bureau of Statistics will start using big data technology to improve the collecting, processing and producing of the country's consumer price index, a key gauge of inflation.

Xian Zude, chief statistician with the NBS, said in an interview with xinhuanet.com on Wednesday that his bureau will use big data to achieve a "breakthrough" in the census of the CPI.

He added that the bureau will include data from Chinese e-commerce companies in official statistics in an effort to bring the CPI census to the next level and ease the time-consuming tasks of those doing the censuses and surveys.

Currently, when NBS conducts a census for the CPI, it randomly selects sample locations and sends people to knock on doors and do face-to-face interviews, Xian revealed in the interview.

It was the first time an NBS official has publicly discussed the strategy since the bureau signed a strategic partnership agreement in late November with 11 high-tech Chinese companies to develop big data technology.

The 11 companies, hailing from a number of different industries, include e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, leading search engine Baidu Inc, China United Network Communications Co Ltd, the country's second-largest mobile operator; and the FANYA Metal Exchange, one of the largest spot trading and investing platforms for rare metals.

Ma Jiantang, head of the bureau, said at the signing ceremony of the strategic partnership that the era of producing, sharing and using data is coming.

"Big data will become the foundation of government management, social management and macro-economic control," Ma said.

"There are two things about big data technology that are special for us. One is the huge amount of data, and the other is that the data come in different forms," Xian said, adding that along with numbers, pictures and text also can be included in statistical work using big data technology.

By cooperating with the 11 companies, the bureau can explore how to use the technology in official statistics and make its statistics more scientific, he said.

Xian said the reason the bureau chose to cooperate with the 11 companies is because they either produce or collect data. "This is only our first step," he said. "We will cooperate with more companies in the future."

Huang Linli, a senior analyst with Baidu Inc, said her company has some natural advantages in developing big data technology.

"Netizens' search requests exceed 5 billion a day on baidu.com. The data generated from those searches will be very valuable to the government for making predications on the economy, as well as other sectors."

Hu Tingting, a big data analyst with the Beijing-based Analysys International, an Internet market consulting firm, said it is a good thing for the government and that more and more companies are aware of the value of data.

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