ISLAMABAD: Digital census for the first time in Pakistan in 2023 would be a great success as merits of digital census include time reduction, geographic information system (GIS)-based monitoring, real-time progress analysis, instant data availability and online task allocation.

Speakers highlighted this during a seminar themed ‘Census 2023: All You Want to Know About’ at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) on Thursday.

Chief statistician of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) Naeem uz Zafar said that all preparations were rolled out and the team was ready for a gigantic task. “The effort is entirely indigenous; all the systems devised and tools created are by our own experts,” he said.

He shared that census was an important national activity that was linked with resource allocation to provinces, representation in national/provincial assemblies and the delimitation process.

He apprised the audience that after the results of the latest Census 2017 were approved in the 45th Council of Common Interests (CCI) meeting held on April 12, 2021, the CCI gave directions for the next census to start as early as possible and it should be according to international best practices through use of the latest technology.

Dr Naeem uz Zafar said that following United Nations (UN) guidelines, it was decided that there ought to be clarity regarding the primary objectives of census policy and planning.

The chief statistician also added that a National Census Coordination Committee (N3C) has been developed at the national level in the House of PBS. N3C can be imagined as the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) that was set up during the pandemic.

N3C would have centralised decision making, a control room with dashboards showing real-time progress, trends and analysis.

“For the first time, self-enumeration method will also be used. It’s a two step process. First, you will have to sign in on a portal and fill the form. Towards the end, it will provide you with a QR code. Save it with yourself. Later, when the enumerator knocks on your door, just show him the QR code. Moreover, geo-tagging of each structure, tablet-based and self-enumeration system will build the trust of stakeholders. As many as 126,000 tablets will be used in the exercise,” he said.

Regarding the questionnaire, the chief statistician said that there are around 40 questions on eight broad themes.

These include household, basic amenities, demography, education, health, employment, disability and migration.

Earlier in his opening remarks Dr Nadeem ul Haque, vice chancellor of PIDE said that censuses remained controversial in Pakistan, at times delayed for over a decade.

“Now that we are moving towards the new Census, it is time to raise all concerns and questions we have,” he said.

It is pertinent to note here that the first-ever regular population census in the areas now comprising Pakistan, was held in 1881. Since then regular censuses were conducted after every 10 years up to 1981.

Six censuses have been undertaken so far in 1951, 1961, 1972, 1981, 1998 and latest in 2017.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2023

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