You are here

Anything But Average

We are relaunching the Austraffic ITE-ANZ World Wide Learning Opportunities Award to send young Traffic and Transport professionals overseas. COVID paused the program for two years but applications are now open.

The systems are getting better, but the nature of the surveys and what they are really measuring should still be foremost in our minds. A detailed understanding of what is happening on the ground is essential for finding local improvements. Some more detailed surveys and good old-fashioned observations are integral components to add to automatically collected data.

We are racing ahead with high powered computer technology without the right foundation. We can make bigger mistakes at a faster rate: Garbage in – Garbage out. The impact of COVID has been huge, but it is also being used as an excuse to cover some long term, systemic problems.

The mandatory Census of Population and Housing has been defined as the most significant statistical event in Australia. But it is not sacrosanct. What is essential is good data.

If the most advanced assessment processes are based on poor data and/or wrong assumptions the conclusions can be enormously misleading.

Having a huge amount of data can be quite different from having enough of the right data. How often do we test if a survey has gender or other biases?

With the boom in available data and the computing power to analysis it, we need to introduce data collection, management and even governance more firmly into the education system. However, we need to go further; we need an education system that is not based on the very problem we have with data in defining our transport needs: the use and abuse of averages!

It is not just how we are travelling that is important, it is “why”. When we are faced with a huge disruption such as the Coronavirus it makes us re-evaluate and adapt to the different conditions.  What does this mean for the future?  With good data collection, analysis and management of the information we collect, we will maximise the services that we can provide to the community.

One of the most well-known examples of the danger of averages comes from the U.S. Airforce; they were suffering a large number of crashes, taking lives and expensive equipment. At its worst point, 17 pilots crashed in a single day. They believed they had good pilots, flying better planes, but they were getting worse results. Some misconceptions had to be overcome.

We need an ongoing discussion and evaluation of how and what is being collected and how it is being used.  We are starting a conversational series “Anything but Average”; by constructively reviewing examples of the collection and use (and misuse) of data, sharing ideas, and identifying proper research, we hope to create a spirit of respect and understanding of the right way to go about collecting and using data.