The Central Statistical Office on Wednesday launched the Zimbabwe Statistics Database (Zimdat), a system that organises, stores and displays data in a uniform format that facilitates information sharing.

The system, among other things, enhances the storage and analysis of performance indicators in different areas as defined by the users and supports evidence based policy formulation and decision-making.

The main objective of the Zimdat is to democratise access, use and dissemination of accurate data on a wide range of demographic, socio economic and environmental indicators, the CSO said.

Deputy Economic Development Minister, Samuel Undenge, under whose portfolio the CSO the falls, said ZIMDAT provided a one-stop information shop critical for policy formulation and implementation.

"Data is needed for policy and decision making, the monitoring of Poverty Reduction Strategies, Millennium Development Goals, sectorial goals and other development initiatives.

"Data helps its users, including policy makers, to base their decisions on reliable facts about the socio economic status in the various parts of Zimbabwe," he said.

Available information was often scattered in various publications or conflicting, rendering it useless, he said.

Since the CSO was in the process of being transformed into a semi autonomous organisation, the Zimdat launch, Undenge said, provided a solid foundation for a new agency expected to be more effective and efficient in the supervision of statistical products.

"The agency is envisaged to be the hub of the national statistical system comprising data users, producers, suppliers, research and training centres," he said.

CSO acting director, Moffat Nyoni, said Zimdat was created on the realisation of the necessity of having a harmonised information source.

Representatives of United Nations organisations such as Unicef, UNFPA and UNDP that provided assistance in coming up with the database hailed its launch saying it would increase access to information at all levels. It was, however, critical for the database to be continuously updated to provide timely and reliable data.

Sources of the information available on ZIMDAT include the CSO, line ministries, government parastatals, educational institutions, and international organisations.

Indicators on the database include health, agriculture, education nutrition, demography, the economy, child protection and the environment. - New Ziana.