A five-day experts group meeting on supporting electronic data collection and dissemination in censuses-making opened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday with Economic Commission for Africa's (ECA) African Centre for Statistics Director, Oliver Chinganya, emphasizing the importance of population and housing censuses for the continent.
Mr. Chinganya said censuses were a fundamental source for producing small area statistics, adding timely dissemination of good quality census data was crucial for national and international development goals.
The meeting seeks to enhance participant's understanding of using new technologies to improve census data collection and dissemination.
This will be achieved by sharing key lessons and experiences from countries who have used, or about to use, new technology for data collection and or dissemination in their census.
"Population and housing censuses provide vital information for monitoring the Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union's Agenda 2063, in addition to a wide range of statistical areas allowing disaggregation by small geographic areas and small population groups," said Mr. Chinganya.
He said population and housing censuses were one of the most complex and costly statistical operations due to the involvement of a vast number of field workers, requiring extensive preparation, delineating entire country enumeration areas and mapping all households, massive awareness campaign and post-enumeration activities.
"There is a critical need for a continuous effort of using alternative approaches and technologies to improve data quality, timeliness and dissemination of census results while considering increasing costs of carrying out the census," the ACS Director said.
Several African countries have begun preparations for the 2020 round of population and housing censuses. Egypt, Lesotho and Malawi have already undertaken the census while several others are currently at advanced stages in preparation.
The use of technology, particularly the use of mobile tablets, has become part of the 2020 round with the expansion in mobile connectivity on the continent and mobile devices with GPS capability providing new opportunities.
Mr. Chinganya said the use of technology unless given due planning and consideration also brought about challenges.
"The challenge we have experienced in tablets-based census-taking in Ethiopia and Kenya is calibrating the huge number of tablets so that they can be ready for fieldwork," he said.
The ECA supported Ethiopia to prepare 180,000+ tablets through developing mobile apps and web-based applications. Currently the organization is supporting Kenya for its upcoming census while discussions are ongoing with Ghana on similar matters.
"There are many challenges facing countries in this round which require critical intervention, namely, device sourcing; software and ICT infrastructure; mapping; questionnaire construction, data security in remote transferring of cases, among others," said Mr. Chinganya.
"We need to cooperate and coordinate to mitigate the challenges through discussion and sharing of ideas to assist each other with knowledge, technical assistance, and resource sharing."
As a result, the ECA is proposing an experts group meeting on using new technology to strengthen the capacity of national statistical offices and agencies in charge of population and housing census for improving data quality and timely dissemination of census results.
The meeting will allow countries to have a better understanding of the challenges and benefits of adopting new technologies through sharing experiences with other countries and agencies that have utilised or plan to utilise new technologies, said Mr. Chinganya.
The ECA, he said, will continue to promote the use of innovation in statistics with its convening power at a regional level, in partnership with international, regional, training centres, technology partners and mainly member States who are on the ground facing the real challenge.
Key participants in the workshop were drawn from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Cameroon, Ghana, Mozambique, Cote D'Ivoire, Kenya, Seychelles, Egypt, Lesotho, Zambia, Eswatini and Liberia as well as the African Development Bank, the African Union Commission and other related organisations.