Development partners ready to fund Africa’s digital census

Digital economy
Digital economy

Mr William Muhwava, Chief, Demographic and Social Statistics Section, African Centre Statistics, says Development Partners have expressed readiness to assist African countries to conduct digital censuses.

“The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and its partners are driving a continental programme on transforming National Statistical Offices in Africa through digitalisation to transform manual censuses to electronic-censuses,” he said.

Mr Muhwava was speaking at a Census Workshop hosted by Ghana on the theme: “Good Practice in Digital Censuses,” which provided a platform for sharing lessons from Ghana’s 2021 PHC and to explore the use of new technologies to improve data collection.

The workshop brought together over 70 experts from 17 countries, including the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the United Nations Population Fund and the Office of National Statistics.

He stated that the UNECA and its partners were addressing the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the implementation of the 2020 Census Round, a UN recommendation for countries to undertake their Census from 2015 to 2024.

Ghana is among the 15 countries out of the 54 African countries that conducted Censuses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Almost half of the countries in Africa were scheduled to conduct census enumeration in 2020 and 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened the successful conduct of censuses in many countries through delays, interruptions that compromise quality, or complete cancellation of census projects, “he noted.

Domestic and donor financing for the census, he stated, had been diverted to address COVID-19, leaving the census without crucial funds, stressing that many countries had already taken decisions to postpone the census, while others were yet to announce the way forward.

He said there was the need for critical intervention like device sourcing; software and ICT infrastructure; mapping; questionnaire construction, data security in remote transferring of cases, to address the challenges of COVID-19.

“What we have learnt so far is that the use of technology, particularly the use of mobile tablets, has become part of the 2020 Round in Africa.

“The expansion in mobile connectivity in Africa and mobile devices with Global Positioning System capability is providing new opportunities. Our member states are substituting Performance Application Programming Interface software with the Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing,” he said.

He announced the introduction of computer applications developed by UNECA, which were being used by some African countries to facilitate the use of technology in census processes.

“Electronic dashboards have been deployed in countries to monitor progress and quality of the census enumeration, and a tablet-sharing programme established to enable other countries access IT equipment from those that had completed the censuses”, he said.

Professor Samuel Annim, the Government Statistician, said Ghana during the 2021 PHC deployed different interventions, including virtual training to adhere to the health protocols of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are championing a South –South learning platform where other countries will learn from Ghana’s Census exercise and replicate same in their respective countries to ensure that the continent has accurate data,” he said.

The Ghana Statistical Service provisional figures from the 2021 PHC show that there are 30.8 million people in Ghana, compared to 24.7 million people recorded in the 2010 Census.

The  2021  PHC  counted and collected detailed information on all persons that spent the Census Night, that is  Sunday  27th  June  2021,  in the country.

The initial enumeration period was from June 27 to July 11, 2021, with a mop-up period, first for one week and subsequently extending it to August 15 in some areas with challenges.

Prior to the Census Night, the listing of structures took place between 13th and 25th June 2021.

Structures listed were completed buildings, uncompleted buildings at various levels of completion above window level and unconventional structures such as metal containers, and kiosks.

It is expected to provide important information to support the evidence-based implementation of the national development agenda and support the tracking of achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 of the African Union.

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