COVID-19 Makes Conducting a Census Even More Vital. But How?

As the world grapples with the spread of COVID-19, it’s clear that weathering a pandemic calls for careful emergency planning and assessment. It also requires us to protect those most at risk and provide lifesaving resources to people affected.

That starts with accurate census data and a complete count. For example, governments need up-to-date knowledge of population densities in major cities, as these are locations of higher transmission; the elevated case fatality rates among older populations demand knowledge of where older people are clustered; the provision of emergency medical facilities requires data on catchment area populations; and even basic metrics on COVID-19 caseloads require accurate population denominators by location.

Conducting a census during a pandemic poses health risks to field staff and the public. With 150 countries scheduled to conduct census enumeration in 2020 and 2021, the potential disruption of the 2020 census round could be significant. The COVID-19 pandemic will threaten the successful conduct of censuses in many countries through delays, interruptions that compromise quality, or complete cancellation of census projects.

Several countries have already made decisions to postpone the census, with many others yet to announce the way forward.

Safe and Socially Distanced Census Interviews

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which provides technical support to developing countries during all stages of a national census, a global effort must be made to assure that even where a census is delayed, census planning and preparations are not cancelled, but continue. This will ensure that implementation can proceed safely when COVID-19 is under control.

A modern census platform like HxGN Smart Census can help National Statistics Offices around the world to conduct the census in the safest possible way. With the 2020 release of HxGN Smart Census, new interviewing components allow households to complete census questionnaires via the telephone or online without the need for field worker visits. The Computer-Assisted Web Interviewing (CAWI) and Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) components complement the existing Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) component through extended multimode electronic data collection.

CATI and CAWI are the safest methods for data collection during the pandemic while social distancing is key. Moreover, CATI and CAWI methodologies reduce the cost, administrative burden, and environmental impact of census-taking, while increasing privacy for households.

Learn more about the HxGN Smart Census 2020 release here.