Statistics South Africa moved into the 21st century on Wednesday when it announced it would be using the internet to conduct most of its census interviews.
With just 10 weeks to go until the fourth population count in post-apartheid South Africa, Stats SA told the portfolio committee on public service and administration the big count would be internet-based, with the computer-assisted web interviewing (Cawi) as part of a methodology, based on a questionnaire provided to the respondent with a link in a panel or a website.
“Following the physical census night of counting the homeless, transients and people in special dwellings, we will be launching our three modes of collection with more emphasis this time around with the web-based Cawi collection,” Stats SA’s Calvin Molongoana said.
“Members of the public will still be urged and nudged to complete the questionnaire”, beginning from early in February.
Molongoana said respondents who registered on Cawi but did not finish the questionnaire would have the option of a telephonic collection of data or personal interviews.
The pilot computer-assisted personal interviews phase in seven of the nine provinces, completed on 31 August, was used to stress test the technology and software, including installations of cybersecurity to secure people’s personal information.
“In addition, we have what we call mobile device management systems, which assist us to control these devices remotely.
“We can track and trace lost devices and remotely wipe out information on any gadget which poses a risk to the census collection process.”
Meanwhile, Stats SA said the next big population count, the first since 2011, will create temporary jobs following the all-time high unemployment rate in SA.
About 165,000 temporary field staff will be recruited for fieldwork activities that include data collection, clerical and administrative duties.
The 2022 census will run from February until March.
According to the census 2022 human resources registration database dashboard, there were more than 350,000 registrations. Molongoana urged applicants who did not finish their registrations to revisit their applications in order to be considered for the temporary placement.
“We’re seeing 57,000 in numeration areas where we don’t seem to be having applicants. But also there is 91,000 of incomplete registrations,” he added.
“Our call centre is also starting to follow-up with these individuals to assist them to complete their application processes.”
Meanwhile, statistician Diego Iturralde said SA was fortunate to have had three censuses, as they provided data for a number of programmes and services used by different structures and communities across the country.
“The data that is collected there is critically important in planning and policy-making, even academic research. It’s a source of data which all parties, in and outside government, find relevant,” he said.
“It’s the only source of data that comes over 10 years that enables indicators to be published at very small area levels. So we can create indicators even at ward level.”
A census was the broadest data collection by a statistical agency, where every individual in a country was counted and the data collected was used for evidence-based decision-making.