From Census to Smart Census

The United Nations require their Member States to conduct at least one population and housing census every ten years. The information generated by a population and housing census – numbers of people, their distribution, their living conditions and other key data – is essential for policymakers so that they know where to invest.

While census may sound like a rather modern undertaking, it isn’t. The word “census” originated in ancient Rome from the Latin word censere (“to estimate”). The census played a crucial role in the administration of the Roman Empire, as it was used to determine taxes. It provided a register of citizens and their property from which their duties and privileges could be listed.

The Roman census is even mentioned in the bible several times. The most well-known, took place at the time of Jesus Christ’s birth, reported in Luke 2:1–5.

Besides religious testimonials, there are also political acknowledgments to census. In South Africa, the first census was taken in 1911, but it took until October 1996 for all South Africans to be counted as citizens of a democracy. This was a result of the election of Nelson Mandela and his post-Apartheid Government in 1994. President Mandela decided to hold a national census in 1996 in order to act upon the urgent need for accurate information, so that his plans would be based on the true situation. On 20 October 1998 in Pretoria in his speech on the results of the census, President Mandela said, “The Census was one of the defining milestones in the building of our new nation. Census 96 and its army of one hundred thousand enumerators, marked a break with our divided past; by reaching every part of the country; by using the same methods for everyone; and by ensuring that as far possible everyone was asked for information in their own language. At the end of the day we have detailed, all-inclusive, information about our people which we can use to achieve our shared goals.”

Twenty years later South Africa still honors the same principles, but the methodology of undertaking a census has radically changed. With the improvement and democratization of technology, Statistics South Africa, the national statistical office, now benefits from HxGN Smart Census. Fieldworkers no longer receive paper maps to orientate themselves to the areas where they have to enumerate people with pen and paper. The HxGN Smart Census solution contains a web-based smart GIS application with predefined workflows that guide fieldworkers through their allocated geographical areas and tasks. A mobile application facilitates the data capturing in the field, even in areas without internet access. This digital enumeration has significantly improved the data quality and the speed at which the results are available. HxGN Smart Census has made it easier for Statistics South Africa to fulfill their mission: The South Africa I know, the home I understand.

To learn more, visit the HxGN Smart Census webpage.

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