|The Second Meeting of the
Working Party on the Application of New Technology
to Population Data
|Singapore, 1-3 April
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMISSION FOR ASIA AND THE
21 March 1998
Working Party on the Application of New Technology
to Population Data
1-3 April 1998
|Useful Database Applications
and Systems FASTAB: Tabulation Package for Singapore's
This document has been prepared by the Singapore
Department of Statistics. It has been issued as
- The Singapore Department
of Statistics (DOS) is planning to use FASTAB
as the tabulation package for the Population
Census 2000 database. FASTAB, which stands
for "Flexible And Swift Tabulation", is a
sophisticated tabulation software tool operating
on a client-server, windows-based environment.
FASTAB was developed to address the needs
of DOS for a fast, flexible, easy-to-use and
windows-based cross tabulation software system.
- DOS, being the national
statistical agency, require large amounts
of statistical tables to be produced in a
quick and timely manner to inform policy makers
of the social, economic and demographic trends.
As such, the FASTAB project was commissioned
by DOS to address the needs of data users
for a fast, flexible, windows-based cross
tabulation package. Experience from the 1990
Census showed tabulations done with the mainframe-based
Table Programming Language (TPL) required
time and much effort. TPL tables needed extensive
programming and users were dependent on the
expertise of IT specialists. The need for
an end-user product surfaced. DOS worked together
with Kent Ridge Digital Labs (KRDL) to develop
FASTAB SYSTEM : TECHNICAL FEATURES AND BENEFITS
- The system operates
on a Windows NT Server, with users interacting
through Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) on
a Windows 95 platform. Appendix 1 describes
the system. Compared to TPL used for the 1990
Census, some of the features and benefits
which make FASTAB a more desirable software
- Cross and Multiple
The distinct feature of FASTAB lies in its
swift ability to perform cross and multiple
tabulations. Cross tabulations involve relating
2-variables eg showing marital status by sex
(illustrated in Appendix 2). Multiple tabulations
cater to multiple levels of data being tabulated
by the system eg showing the number of non-students
by highest qualification attained, age and
- Generating High-Speed,
FASTAB can process millions of records eg
from Census database in the minimum time possible.
FASTAB is targeted to process 5 levels of
tabulations at the speed of 60 seconds for
3 million records. This is a marked improvement
compared with TPL tables which took 40 minutes
- User-friendly Software
As FASTAB is a client-server application where
the server handles the intensive computation,
user interactions are done via the client.
Users simply specify the parameters and FASTAB
does the rest. Users also see the GUIs and
use drag-and-drop capabilities with online
tips. Users can also share datasets and create
new data sets from existing data fields. Comparatively,
TPL is not as user friendly as it requires
extensive programming in a mainframe environment.
- Flexible Software
FASTAB is flexible as programs written in
earlier sessions can be saved, modified and
reapplied to new tabulations at the click
of a mouse. The formatting of spreadsheets
before and after tabulation eg moving &
deleting columns and rows, grouping and renaming
fields, is also possible. In contrast, any
table generated in TPL requires additional
programming and users depend on the IT personnel
to program and re-define the variables.
- Independent Usage of
FASTAB allows for independent generation of
data to meet specific needs as tabulations
are done at the user's end. There is no need
to write specialised programs or code books
and depend on the IT personnel, as in the
case of TPL. This saves time and costs significantly.
- Able to Export to Microsoft
Tables in FASTAB can be exported as MS Excel
spreadsheet for further computing, or embedded
as tables in MS Word and in PowerPoint presentations.
ENHANCEMENTS TO FASTAB
- DOS and KRDL are currently
working to enhance the FASTAB prototype for
use in the Population Census 2000. Some of
the important areas identified include:
- Printing tables to a
- Modifying existing
tables without any re-specification of
- Giving users the option
to display a code and/or code description;
- Performing additional
FOR THE CENSUS AND FUTURE
- FASTAB would be the
tabulation package for the forthcoming Population
Census 2000, deemed to be Singapore?s largest
national statistical project. It is an end-user
product designed to perform swift and high-volume
tabulations. FASTAB is a pioneering effort
commissioned by DOS and developed technically
- Although FASTAB is presently
developed for DOS, it is a generic tool that
can be extended and applied to other organisations
and countries that foresee the need to perform
cross-tabulations and multi-dimensional models
on large databases. FASTAB is the ?way to
go? for advanced data analysis techniques,
allowing users to mine invaluable but hidden
information contained in their databases.
- With FASTAB being an
advanced tabulation package, the needs of
researchers and policy planners, who require
in-depth information for analysis, would be
| THE FASTAB SYSTEM
|The FASTAB system is configured
below. It operates on 4 modules : Administrative
Module, Main Module, Batch Module and FASTAB Server
| FIGURE 1 : CONFIGURATION
OF FASTAB SYSTEM
The Administrative module
is the data source where all databases and datasets
are created or stored. It caters to the following
- Entry into FASTAB
by registering with the database;
- Register past datasets
or files into the database for future use;
- Create new datasets or
- Maintenance of datasets.
Presently, household records from the Census
1990 are stored in the database. Results from
Census 2000 would be put into the database.
Past records from the Census 1990 and the 1995
mini-Census General Household Survey (GHS) facilitates
cross-sectional analysis for social, economic
and demographic data at every 5-year intervals
ie 1990, 1995, 2000.
The Main Module is where the results are tabulated
based on records stored in the Admin module.
Users simply specify the parameters with the
selected criteria and the data source, and FASTAB
does the rest.
The Batch Module makes use of previously saved
FASTAB interactive sessions with existing datasets
stored as batch jobs for cross tabulations at
a later date. The status of all the jobs submitted
is constantly updated for the purpose of job
monitoring. Users can also print the results
directly upon completion of the job.
The FASTAB server engine is the main work engine.
It is an interactive work engine where everything
stored, programmed and tabulated in the other
modules are accessed by this server engine for
data generation. This engine then feeds the
required output back to the various modules
to obtain the desired tabulations.
| CROSS TABULATIONS IN
FASTAB : AN ILLUSTRATION OF MARITAL STATUS BY
SEX ON FASTAB'S MAIN MODULE
|This section demonstrates how
cross tabulations of marital status and sex are
performed. The objective is to cross tabulate
the different categories of marital status (married,
single, divorced, separated) and sex (total, male
and female) by housetype. The data are obtained
from the 1990 Population Census database which
is stored in the FASTAB Server Engine.
|Step 1 Selecting the Database
|Upon logging in to FASTAB, the
following FASTAB screen will appear.
- To Open the data source,
click on the second icon at the top left hand
- To select the data source,
click on the third icon and the "Select Data
Source" screen showing the different databases
- Select the 1990 Population
Census database as denoted by "HHOLD_P90a"
- Click "OK"
|The 1990 Population Census database
has been selected.
|Step 2 Selecting Required
- Go to the "Tabulation" pull-down
menu and select "Fields Selection"
- The "Select Fields" screen
will appear as shown below.
- Click on the required fields:
- Marital Status (denoted
by MARST_HD as shown)
- House Type
- Click "OK"
|The required fields have been
|Step 3 FASTAB Tabulations
|In Step 2, once the required
fields have been selected, the "List of Fields"
screen will appear
|From the "List of Fields" screen,
click and drag each field onto the "FASTAB" screen:
- Drag the House Type field
(denoted by "HSEHOLD_TY") to the Wafer button
- Drag the Marital Status
field (denoted by "MARST_HD") to the Row button
- Drag the Sex field (denoted
by "SEX_HD") to the Column button
|The final tabulation shows the
cross tabulations of marital status by sex. This
whole process takes less than 1 minute to complete.
|The table can be exported to
other Microsoft Applications for computation and