The importance of valid, reliable and timely
data for population policy and programmes has
been emphasized repeatedly in various international
and regional forums, including the International
Conference on Population and Development held
in Cairo in 1994. The 1992 Bali Declaration
on Population and Sustainable Development
urged governments to give priority to the application
of modern information technologies in population
data production and dissemination.
Against that background, the ESCAP secretariat
designed a project to promote the effective
utilization of modern technology in population
data collection, capture, storage, processing,
analysis and dissemination. The basic
thrust of the project is to share experiences
of the advanced countries with other countries
of the region.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
agreed to fund the project for implementation
commencing in late 1996. However, due
to staff resource constraints in the Statistics
Division of ESCAP, the initiation of project
implementation had to be postponed to 1997.
The project aims at
improving the capabilities
of member and associate member countries/areas
of ESCAP in the application of modern information
technology in population statistics production
of the role of computerization and sharing
information and experience, and
the development of selected
applications utilizing modern technology in
three pilot countries.
As envisaged in the project plan, the ESCAP
Statistics Division as the executing agency
established in April 1997 a Working Party on
the Application of New Technology in Population
Data. It consists of one expert from each
of eight selected countries/areas of the region
(Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Japan, Macau,
Philippines, Singapore and Thailand), and an
additional invited member from New Zealand.
The tenure of the Working Party continues until
the end of the project (1999), and it meets
frequently and reports to the ESCAP Committee
of the Working Party:
Mr Rob Edmondson
Technology Application, Population Statistics
Group and Methodology Division
Australian Bureau of Statistics
P.O. Box 10, Belconnen A.C.T. 2616, Australia
Tel: (612) 6252 5920
Fax: (612) 6252 6383 (electronic), (612)
6251 6009, 6252 5172 (paper)
Mr Mohammad Hamidul Hoque Bhuiyan
National Data Bank and Population Census
and Sample Vital Registration System Wing
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics
Ministry of Planning
Dhaka 1000, Bangladesh
Tel: (880-2) 911 8045 (office)
Fax: (880-2) 911 1064
Mr Sihar Lumbantobing
Statistics and Computer Training Centre
Badan Pusat Statistik
Jl. Raya Jagakarsa No. 70, Lenteng Agung,
Jakarta 12620 Indonesia
Tel: (62-21) 7873781, 7873782, 7873783
Fax: (62-21) 7873955
Planning and Coordination Division
Management and Coordination Agency
3-1-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Tel: (81-3) 35812671
Fax: (81-3) 35061945
Chief Social Statistics Analysis
and Development Group
Social Statistics Division
National Statistical Office
Lan Luang Road, Bangkok 10100, Thailand
Tel: (66-2) 2810333, ext. 1914
Fax: (66-2) 282-5861, 281 3815
Subsequent to Mr Yamauchi's reassignment
in the Management and Coordination Agency,
Japan, Mr Toida replaced him in January
In its first meeting, the Working Party
recognized that Statistics New Zealand was
in many ways a leading agency in using IT
in the project area, and invited Statistics
New Zealand to nominate an additional expert.
Consequently, Mr David Archer joined the
Project activities are conducted by the secretariat,
by the Working Party, and by selected national
agencies. They were originally as follows:
Selection of three pilot
countries to undertake activities leading
to the establishment or adaptation of IT applications
in population statistics.
Identification of priorities
and provision of guidance in the systematic
application of technology - in areas such
as data capture, coding, editing, tabulation,
analysis, databases and presentation of
spatially referenced data using geographic
information systems (GIS).
Consolidation of country
experiences and sharing them within the region
Under the guidance of
the Working Party, specific national activities
will be commissioned in three developing countries,
leading to the establishment or adaptation
of IT applications in population statistics.
The selection of countries would be based
on the needs, interest, attempts at development
and infrastructure of the countries with respect
to each application.
Secretariat and the Working Party
A regional newsletter
(the one you are reading) would be published
in five issues. It would carry articles
on project activities and country experiences
in the effective utilization of information
technology to population data
A training package is
to be developed to raise awareness among senior
and middle level manager and planners of the
importance of technological applications to
The ESCAP secretariat is responsible for project
coordination and administration, and is accountable
for its overall execution. The Working
Party has a dual role with substantive/ technical
(such as providing specialized papers and assisting
the exchange of information) and monitoring
functions. The selected national agencies
will be responsible for executing pilot applications
as specified in separate contracts between them
and the secretariat.
Working Party selects project focus and adopts
terms of reference
The Working Party on the Application of New
Technology to Population Data was convened its
first meeting at Bangkok from 24 to 26 September
1997. It agreed on its own terms of reference
and decided to restrict the project activities
to emerging information technologies in census
and survey applications, with data capture,
geographic information systems and the use of
the Internet as main domains . Among its
other major decisions, Working Party selected
three countries to carry out three different
types of IT applications.
A review of the recent experiences in the
application of information technology, provided
by the secretariat at meeting, revealed that
population data collected through censuses and
surveys were often underutilized as compared
to their information value. The Working
Party was confident that the application of
appropriate IT was one way to ensure a fuller
use of data and to attract new users.
It was, however, concerned about indications
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, and recommended that cooperation
between countries in planning and conducting
census and related activities should be enhanced.
According to its terms of reference, the
Working Party on the Application of New
Technology to Population Data shall:
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.
and provide guidance to the activities
of the project on the application of
new technology in population data collection,
analysis, presentation and dissemination.
Advise the secretariat
on the strategy, approach and modalities
to be adopted in undertaking project
activities, producing its outputs, and
meeting the immediate objectives.
Review and monitor
progress of the project activities and
submit its observations, suggestions
and recommendations to the secretariat
and the Committee on Statistics.
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 countries.
Play the focal
role, and guide the secretariat as necessary,
in securing close cooperation and inputs
to the project activities from various
national and international organizations.
timing and provisional agenda for its
own future meetings.
In other recommendations, the Working
Party urged countries to share the results of
their evaluations of technology options for
various aspects of population data processing,
and to assess all available options in meeting
equipment requirements for census operations,
including rental of equipment and outsourcing
of some of the tasks.
In line with the selected focus, the Working
Party decided that the topics and the sites
of the three pilot applications should be "imaging
technology", "the use of GIS for census operations
and dissemination", and "the use of GPS for
preparation of census enumeration area maps".
Indonesia, Philippines, and Bangladesh were
selected as respective locations for the pilots.
The Working Party authorized the secretariat
to work together with the pilot countries to
finalize the project designs in a standard format.
The Working Party decided that the "guidelines"
to be produced under the project would be on
data dissemination (secretariat as the coordinator),
on mapping related technologies (Bangladesh
and Philippines as coordinators) and on data
entry, capture, processing and archiving (Indonesia).
It recommended that each set of "guidelines"
should draw from technology
practices in the countries and provide options
for their implementation.
on the use of IT initiated
In order to map out the state of IT use in
population data collection, processing and dissemination,
the Working Party recommended that the secretariat
should conduct a survey among the national statistical
offices in the region. The survey should
utilize experience from similar exercises recently
conducted by the United Nations Statistics Division
(UNSD), and United Nations Population Fund/Country
Support Team (UNFPA/CST); in particular the
Geographic Information System (GIS) module from
the previous UNSD survey should be incorporated.
The results of the survey would be submitted
to the ESCAP Committee on Statistics in 1998,
after a review by the Working Party. The
results of the survey would also be featured
in the project newsletter.
As the Internet could be used at various stages
of population data collection and dissemination,
the Working Party decided to focus its 2nd 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 by Statistical Institute for
Asia and the Pacific (SIAP).
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. The Working Party constituted a
sub-group ("Working Group") to review
the imaging technologies and facilitate their
selection and deployment, with Australia, Japan,
New Zealand, Singapore and Indonesia (convener)
of current and future census and survey technologies
The first meeting of the Working Party was
an opportunity to compare the recent developments
in application of IT to census and survey processing
in countries and areas represented. The
plans for the year 2000 round of censuses indicate
that technologies used in earlier censuses are
being upgraded in all countries. However,
certain well-tested methods from the past continue
to be popular. Read more details in the
project Web site (<http://www.un.org/stat/pop-it/>)
which includes papers presented in the meeting.
There is a clear trend away from using mainframe
computers for census and survey processing.
Small countries are planning to store and process
data in stand-alone or networked PCs, and larger
ones are moving into client-server environments.
The prevalence of the year 2000 problem in mainframe
environments has accelerated this trend.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)
introduced several innovations in its latest
census (1996). Their 145 field managers
were given PCs with a modem, which allowed them
to work from their homes. Secure connections
were used for exchanging data, receiving instructions
for the field staff, and for resolving ad hoc
problems. Another innovation was the use
of GIS for Collection District design.
The third innovation was to use PC based coding
for the fields that were not captured by Optical
Mark Recognition/Reader (OMR) processing.
(OMR had been introduced already earlier, but
the coding was done in a mainframe-based system.).
Tabulation and data dissemination facilities
were also upgraded from the previous round (1991),
with the introduction of Supercross as tabulation
tool (replacing TPL), improvement of GIS-based
data dissemination, and piloting of Internet
data dissemination. An information warehouse
has been established to store data and metadata
and make them easier to access.
The next Australian census is likely to use
imaging and Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
technologies, which would reduce paper handling
and permit automatic coding, and consequently
improve timeliness and reduce costs. Internet
would be used more extensively for the dissemination
of results; also off-line products, such as
those disseminated on CD-ROMs, would have browser-like
Household survey processing is being improved
along similar lines: the mainframe system (SAS/TPL/PL1)
is being replaced with PC and client-server
based databases, analytical and tabulation software
(SAS/Supercross/SQLWindows client-server environment).
The use of computer assisted personal interviewing
(CAPI) is increasing in survey enumeration.
Data are typically entered in OMR forms that
are mailed back for scanning and processing.
Blaise software has proved very effective for
population surveys as it enables in-field editing
and reduces the time required to clean unit
record data. Handheld devices and OCR are also
being tested and becoming part of some surveys.
Lotus Notes has been used for electronic mail,
discussion databases and automation of many
administrative systems (e.g., leave, acquisition,
recruitment, staff movements, planning).
It is becoming more important for a range of
statistical processes. ABS has conducted
successful pilot experiments that move parts
of survey design activities, dispatch and control
facilities and management information systems
to Lotus Notes. Because of its improved
programmability, ABS is increasingly using Notes
also for traditional database application
development. Lotus Domino technology is
used to make Notes databases available on the
World Wide Web.
GIS have been used in survey and census planning,
and in data dissemination. CDATA is a
CD-ROM product which contains a large volume
of Census data, digital boundaries and base
map data, combined with Mapping and Manipulation
Software. CDATA 96 uses MapInfo software
package developed in a 32 bit Microsoft Windows
environment. The ABS experience shows
that map-based social atlases and other products
are selling very well.
The third census of Bangladesh was conducted
in 1991 in which the full count of the population
was based on a short OMR-questionnaire, while
the sample census was based on a long non-OMR
For data processing, two OMR OPSCAN 21/75 were
utilized in two shifts. For the smooth
functioning of the OMR machines, arrangements
were made to ensure an environment with controlled
humidity and temperature. Procedures were
established for the systematic processing of
batches of questionnaire by "thana", checking
of geo-codes, capture and transfer of data image
for each batch from the OMR host computer to
the micro-processing environment utilizing LAPLINK
The data captured through OMR was downloaded
to tape and uploaded to the PC for further processing
using IMPS. With the help of a combination
of mapping, data base and other software a miniature
data back was created for 10 "zilas".
In the 1990 census, data entry was decentralized
to provincial statistical offices (stand-alone
PCs were used), which cut the processing time
significantly and made it possible to announce
major results six months after the census date.
However, the more complex sample data were still
entered in the central office and in selected
regional offices. A similar decentralized
data entry strategy was used also in the 1995
Intercensal Population Survey, with the data
entry programme prepared with Integrated System
for Survey Analysis (ISSA).
Currently, the Central Bureau of Statistics
is studying with the assistance from Japan International
Cooperation Agency (JICA) the possibility of
using imaging, OCR and OMR technologies in the
next census (2000). As for GIS, the CBS
completed in 1997 the digitization of maps of
administrative areas, with villages as the smallest
Japan has been using OMR questionnaires since
the 1975 census, and the technology has been
enhanced in later rounds of censuses.
For the 1990 census, optical mark and image
readers (OMIR) were developed, to capture hand
written industry and occupation responses.
The upcoming census in 2000 is likely to see
a departure from OMR and the use of OCR instead,
since technical support for OMR equipment appears
faltering. OCR technology gives wider
flexibility in questionnaire design, has less
requirements for questionnaire paper quality,
and yet allows the use of "drop-out" colour
(colour that is not optically read) as guidance
in the questionnaires.
In the1990 census, the Statistics Bureau introduced
a GIS (Census Mapping System), which distinguishes
two types of boundary areas. They are
"enumeration districts", which cover about 50
households on average, and "basic unit blocks"
which are demarcations of clearly identifiable
and permanent geographic objects, such as roads,
rivers and railways. The enumeration districts
(totalling 881,000) are used as sampling units
in various surveys. The technology is
particularly useful in distributing the response
burden equally. The basic unit block (n=1,742,000)
on the other hand is the smallest unit in presenting
small area statistics.
From the 1995 census onwards, GIS based small-area
statistics become easier than before to use
as the boundaries of basic unit blocks, the
correspondence between them and area section
names (cho-aza), and the geo-coordinates of
the central points of the basic unit blocks
are disseminated in electronic form to users.
The Statistics Bureau has taken steps to ensure
that confidentiality requirements are met when
it distributes small area statistics.
(Individual basic unit blocks have on average
only 25 households, which does not allow statistics
with very detailed breakdowns.)
Until recently census and survey data have
been collected on questionnaires and entered
manually. In the 1996 Inter-Census, the
Census and Statistics Department considered
using OMR, but the idea was abandoned because
of the lack of experience in using the technology
and the relatively small gains achievable in
processing a census for the relatively small
population. The traditional method of
data entry, however, was improved by introducing
CENTRY to develop the data entry program.
Traditional batch validation and data compilation
programs, including COBOL and SAS code, were
used for that census. In 1998 the Census
and Statistics Department migrated its applications
to client-server (MS Windows NT) environment.
The requirement of printing publications in
three languages (Chinese, Portuguese, English)
is challenging, as Chinese characters need two
bytes each in their digital presentation (requiring
separate operating system and software), while
certain software packages cannot handle all
Portuguese characters correctly.
Census data processing has been decentralized
since the 1990 census, first with stand-alone
computers in regional offices, and from 1995
with LAN-connected PCs. A nation-wide
data communication network (NSOnet) with dial-up
connections was used to transfer population
counts to the central office. In the next,
year 2000 census, this transmission method is
likely to be replaced by an Internet-based solution,
and data entry will take place a step lower,
at provincial offices.
The dissemination has been based on publications
and files distributed on diskettes. However,
CD-ROMs and the Internet are emerging as future
dissemination media. The NSO is in the
process of digitizing and improving the accuracy
of small area maps, with plans to start using
The Department of Statistics is very advanced
in IT use, and it has ambitious plans to use
high technology in its census in 2000.
The next issue of the Newsletter will feature
some of the advanced technologies, presented
to the Working Party in its second meeting in
Singapore in April 1998.
The National Statistical Office (NSO) is
planning to continue to use conventional enumeration
questionnaires in the 2000 Population and Housing
Census. A short questionnaire will cover
all population, and a longer one is to be used
to collect detailed characteristics of a sample
of the population. The NSO is likely to
enter data into PCs manually in provincial statistical
offices, and then transfer data to the central
office through its dedicated computer network.
It is hesitant to experiment with OMR and OCR
technologies because of the fairly steep learning
curve and overhead costs involved in their application.
Distributed data entry has been tested in the
1996 Industrial Census. Main results will
be published in hard copy publications and on
the Internet, while more detailed information
is expected to be made available on a CD-ROM.