Senior Statisticians from African countries have underscored the need to fully revolutionize data collection for demographic and housing censuses using mobile devices and the internet which is being considered more convenient, accurate, faster and less costly by 2020.
Given the challenges associated with the manual data collection for population and housing censuses, the use of electronic data collection technologies will enhance decision making for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This is the basic reasoning behind a training workshop for high-level statisticians from all over Africa. The workshop, which has been described as ‘timely’ by various stakeholders, comes at a time when the world counts about 5 billion mobile telephone network subscribers, from all walks of life, who could be linked through the right platforms and technologies to facilitate data collection and the conduct of modern censuses.
Taking place in Yaounde, Cameroon, at the behest of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in partnership with the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) and the Government of Cameroon, the encounter has brought together over 40 experts is the last in a series of regional consultations coordinated by the United Nations Statistics Division in order to get feedback on draft guidelines on the use of electronic data collection technologies in population and housing censuses that will serve as reference at the global level once finalized.
The Director of the Sub-Regional Office for Central Africa of ECA, Mr Antonio Pedro said this will provide speed, accuracy, ubiquity, familiarity and convenience which can also yield value for money results in such complex operations as population censuses.
Mr Pedro however cautioned that the use of such technologies in censuses may come with challenges including “those related to technology changes, speed of change and resistance to change, high training costs and data security.”
This, he said, calls for “collaboration between institutions in the use of mobile technology in order to better tackle new challenges and harness the full potential offered by mobile technology to the community of official statistics.”
Such collaboration is already being well played out between Cameroonian and Malian statisticians as pointed out by Dr Teke Johnson Takwa who heads the Unit for Data Analysis of Cameroon’s Central Bureau for Census and Population Studies (BUCREP).
He said following the first phase of the 10th Development Account project on the use of mobile and internet devises for censuses, conducted by ECA, BUCREP has been for there years effectively using the devices alongside other techniques Cameroon acquired from that phase with positive results and has shared its advanced experiences with Malian counterparts.
As the consultations for finalizing the UNSD guidelines come to an end with this last series of workshops to enhance census processes by 2020, the UNSD is making sure statisticians in Africa, like their colleagues elsewhere, are on the same page on the use of electronic data collection technologies in population and housing censuses.