1. The population and housing censuses of
the 2000 round (1996-2005) are being planned
and conducted in the middle of an "information
explosion". With the increase in demand and
use of data by the government at all levels,
the private sector, research and academic institutions,
non-governmental organizations, community groups,
and international organizations, it is imperative
that contemporary data needs are well understood
and met in an effective and efficient manner.
In this regard, the intelligent utilization
of available technological and methodological
options is of crucial importance. Among other
things, the exploitation of these options has
been playing an important role in improving
the census products and services offered by
the national statistical offices (NSOs). This
document presents selected issues concerning
the 2000 decade of population and housing censuses.
The Working Group is invited to provide its
comments and recommendations.
2. Population and housing censuses continue
to play an important role in the civic society
and contribute to such vital institutions and
processes as democracy, policy formulation and
social and economic development planning. The
diaggregated data available from them have many
uses for the central and local governments and
communities, such as for revenue sharing, town
planning, health and education planning, transport
planning, as well as for the private sector.
However, a population census is an expensive
undertaking, the cost of which has been escalating.
In the scenario where the census cost is rising
but without any apparent improvements in the
timely availability of data, the status of census
as a prime source of statistics is likely to
be questioned, and rightly so. There are a number
of other criticisms which are beginning to create
difficulties for population censuses, such as
response burden on the public and the increased
work load of the government. Difficulties are
also being faced by some countries in recruiting
suitable field staff and due to transportation
and communication problems. It is therefore
necessary to adopt alternative and innovative
approaches in various phases of census operations.
3. Rapid changes in information technology
have already revolutionized census data processing,
with increasing dependance on microcomputers
and associated peripherals, and transformed
the modes of data dissemination. These developments
have also raised the expectations of data users
and altered the way modern censuses are planned
and executed. The rise in the number of data
users coming from a variety of backgrounds and
having different data and analytical needs has
important implications for the current censuses.
For example, in addition to the usual tabulations
and reports, more reliance will have to be placed
on dissemination of data through the electronic
media, while many new census products will gain
prominence, including thematic maps, meta data,
evaluation reports, and analyses.
4. During the past five decades, international
organizations have played an important role
by furthering technical cooperation in the area
of population and housing censuses, providing
technical assistance and guidance to countries
on various aspects of census taking, making
available software packages and technical material,
and promoting standards and international comparability
of data. The work undertaken under the guidance
of the United Nations Statistical Commission
has evolved a set of Principles and Recommendations
for Population and Housing Censuses, the
latest edition of which will soon be released
by the Statistics Division of the United Nations.
This latest revision of the Principles and
Recommendations was reviewed by an expert
group meeting in September 1996 and subsequently
submitted to the Statistical Commission. At
its twenty-ninth session in February 1997, the
Statistical Commission adopted the latest Principles
and Recommendations, for use in the 2000
round of population and housing censuses and
in future census decades. The endorsed Principles
and Recommendations for Population and Housing
incorporating the changes suggested by the Statistical
Commission, will be published by the Secretariat
in all the official languages of the United
5. In the past, it was customary for the regional
commissions to hold regional meetings, adopt
regional principles and recommendations, and
provide inputs to the global recommendations.
However, for the 2000 round only two regional
commissions, Europe and Africa, were able to
organize their own working group meetings. Owing
to resource constraints, inputs from the ESCAP
region were provided only through participation
in the 1996 expert group meeting and comments
on the draft of the Principles and Recommendations.
The UN Statistical Commission's twenty-ninth
session also provided an opportunity for those
participating from the Asia and the Pacific
region to provide further inputs and comments.
6. The revised Principles and Recommendations
takes into account four themes as follows:
- changes in computer
- increased capability
of national censuses offices to disseminate
census data in a more flexible manner together
with the increased ability of users to utilize
data stored in electronic formats;
- changes in socio-economic
situations in many countries;
- increased emphasis on
responding to the needs of data users.
The most important changes reflected in the recommendations
concern the application of new technologies to
the census, quality control and evaluation of
census results. In addition a new topic has been
added for population censuses concerning disability
statistics. Topics that have been revised include
economic characteristics to conform with the newly
revised SNA, fertility, mortality, education and
international migration. A new section on census
products and data utilization has also been added.
in the region
7. Advisory services remain as an important
mode of technical assistance. The three advisers
of ESCAP in population statistics attached to
the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country
Support Teams (UNFPA/CSTs) located in Bangkok,
Fiji and Kathmandu have continued to assist
developing countries in planning, executing
and processing population and housing censuses.
Recently, the adviser attached to the Kathmandu
team was relocated to Almaty in view of the
needs of the Central Asian Republics [Azerbaijan,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan
and Uzbekistan. ], each of which will be conducting
its first census after independence. In March
1997, UNFPA and the UN Statistics Division organized
a symposium on Strengthening Population Information
Systems in the six central Asian Republics.
The meeting, in which ESCAP also participated,
focussed on policy and technical issues, including
issues of technical and financial assistance,
and subregional coordination and cooperation.
The technical issues discussed included data
availability and utilization, quality and timeliness,
balancing perspectives of users and producers
of population information, legal framework,
confidentiality and current options available
for processing and disseminating census data.
A population census project planning workshop
was also organized in conjunction with the symposium.
8. The above symposium was followed up by
a donors meeting in Geneva in September 1997.
A similar exercise has been planned for the
Pacific subregion, under which a technical meeting
on population censuses is scheduled to be held
in December 1997 in Nandi, Fiji.
9. One issue which has emerged from recent
discussions in the regional and international
forums concerns funding of future censuses.
Recently indicated policies, work plans and
priorities of the traditional donors of population
census activities in developing countries suggest
that in general external financial support to
individual censuses in the Asia-Pacific region
would be at a lower level than was possible
in the previous decades. This and other developments
make it increasingly important that census planning
is initiated well in advance so that resource
requirements and allocations are realistically
worked out. Technical cooperation among countries,
sharing of technical information, transfer of
technical knowledge, and adoption and adaptation
of best practices also assume greater importance.
10. The ESCAP secretariat recently initiated
a project on the application of new technology
to population data, under which the first inception
meeting was held from 24 to 26 September 1997.
This multi-year project concerns effective utilization
of information technology with the ultimate
aim of improving the quality, timely availability
and usefulness of the statistical outputs and
services of national statistical offices. The
Working Party meeting recommendations are given
in the annex.
Recommendations of the
first meeting of the Working Party on the Application
of New Technology to Population Data, Bangkok,
24-26 September 1997
1. The Working Party agreed on the following
as its terms of reference:
"The Working Party on the Application of New
Technology to Population Data shall perform
the following functions:
- Play a pivotal role in
consolidating the experiences of the countries
in the application of new technology to population
data and in sharing them within the region.
- Identify priorities and
provide guidance to the activities of the
project on the application of new technology
in population data collection, analysis, presentation
- Advise the secretariat
on the strategy, approach and modalities to
be adopted in undertaking project activities,
producing its outputs, and meeting the immediate
- Review and monitor progress
of the project activities and submit its observations,
suggestions and recommendations to the secretariat
and the Committee on Statistics.
- Formulate procedures and
make arrangements for the active participation
of its members and their parent organizations
in the activities of the project and its outputs,
including the preparation of guidelines and
provision of technical advice to the pilot
- Play the focal role,
and guide the secretariat as necessary, in
securing close cooperation and inputs to the
project activities from various national and
- Determine the timing and
provisional agenda for its own future meetings."
2. It also agreed with the mode of functioning
of the Working Party suggested in document STAT/WPA/2.
3. Noting that the external financial assistance
for developing countries for the 2000 round
of population censuses was likely to be at a
reduced level compared to the past, the Working
Party recommended that cooperation between countries
in planning and conducting census and related
activities should be enhanced.
4. Recognizing that the parent organizations
of some of its members were engaged in a wide
range of evaluations of technology options for
various aspects of population data processing,
the Working Party recommended that the results
of such evaluations should be shared.
5. The Working Party recommended that a careful
assessment should be made of all available options
in meeting equipment requirements for census
operations, including rental of equipment and
outsourcing of some of the tasks.
6. The Working Party decided that the major
focus of the project will be on emerging information
7. The Working Party approved the work plan
outlined in document STAT/WPA/5, with specific
recommendations indicated below.
8. The Working Party identified 3 core areas
as the major focus of the project, as follows:
- GIS in census and survey
- Imaging and data capture
- Application of Internet
9. As the Internet could be used at various
stages of population data collection and dissemination,
the Working Party decided to focus its second
session on the topic and related issues. In
that meeting the Working Party will also review
the progress on various activities of the project
and consider a training proposal to be prepared
10. In light of its major focus the Working
Party decided that the topics and the sites
of the 3 pilot applications to be undertaken
should be as follows:
- Imaging technology - Indonesia
- Use of GIS for census
operations and dissemination - Philippines
- Use of Global positioning
System (GPS) for preparation of census enumeration
area maps - Bangladesh
11. The Working Party authorized the secretariat
to work together with the pilot countries to
finalize the project designs in a standard format.
12. In view of New Zealand's expertise in
several relevant technological areas, the Working
Party recommended that it should be invited
to nominate an expert to serve as a member of
the Working Party.
13. The Working Party recommended that a sub-group
("Working Group") should be formed to review
the imaging technologies and facilitate their
selection and deployment. It should include
Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore.
Indonesia will be the convenor of this group.
In addition UNSD should be invited to participate.
14. The Working Party recommended that the
secretariat should conduct a survey to assess
the use of information technology in population
data collection, processing and dissemination.
The results of the survey will be submitted
to the ESCAP Committee on Statistics in 1998
after a review by the Working Party. The survey
should utilize experience from similar exercises
recently conducted by UNSD, UNFPA/CST; in particular
the GIS module from the previous UNSD survey
should be incorporated. The secretariat will
circulate a draft questionnaire to members of
the Working Party for further comments.
15. The Working Party recommended that 5 issues
of the project Newsletter be produced with the
- Introduction to the project
- proceedings of the first meeting of the
- GIS (including GPS and
- Imaging, data capture
and hand-held devices
- Summary and evaluation
of the project
16. Members of the Working Party agreed to
contribute material to the Newsletter, while
layout and editorial aspects would be handled
by the secretariat. It was agreed that one issue
of the newsletter will include the results of
the survey to be conducted by the secretariat.
The newsletter will also feature a summary of
each meeting of the Working Party.
17. The Working Party recommended that the
following three sets of "guidelines" be produced
under the project as follows:
|c) Data entry, capture,
processing and archiving
18. The Working Party recommended that each
set of "guidelines" should draw from technology
practices in the countries and provide options
for their implementation.
19. The Working Party recommended the following
provisional timetable for its future meetings:
- 2nd meeting - as early
as possible but not later than early April
- 3rd meeting - September
- 4th meeting - first half
20. The Working Party noted that further meetings
might be possible if savings anticipated in
the project materialize.