14 June 2004

South Africa: Death Catches Govt's Interest

Johannesburg — Stats SA is coding 2.7 million death certificates according to reported causes of death as indicated by the doctors who signed them.

Finance minister Trevor Manuel told Parliament on Friday that the project is aimed at providing knowledge on the causes of death in SA.

"This process is complicated and involves sorting forms according to the year, month and day on which the death occurred and eliminating duplicates," Manuel said. "It also involves capturing data about age, sex, geographic location of the death and other demographic information.

"Priority has been given to the capture of three years of data, namely 1997, 1999 and 2001, and the rest of the years will be handled from August this year."

Manuel also told Parliament that Stats SA's electronic products are being used widely. Last year Stats SA received 44 135 telephonic and e-mail requests and recorded 25 000 hits on its Web site every working day, with a record 41 691 hits on 25 May this year. There were also 2 653 downloads of Census in Brief in 20 days last month.

The results of Census 2001 were made available in July last year. "A range of Web-based and other products has been made available to users, and the data are being widely used," Manuel said.

"Other than the census, numerous products of Stats SA are being widely used largely through the electronic medium.

"This illustrates, once again, how important it is that we should continue to make progress in bridging the 'digital divide' that accompanies the many other divisions and inequalities in our society.

"As electronic access is widened, so the role of statistics as a democratising force for empowering debate and understanding among all our people can be taken forward."

He told Parliament that Cabinet had decided that Stats SA should not run a full-scale census in 2006, with a large-scale sample survey of households being designed instead. About 300 000 households will be interviewed.

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