Ministry of National Development Planning Permanent Secretary Chola Chabala says government will use electronic data collection and Computer assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) methods in the 2020 population census to improve data collection.

Speaking during a census mobilisation meeting in Lusaka, Tuesday, Chabala said a paper and pencil approach to the 2020 census was neither sustainable nor cost effective.

“A census is unique, it provides us with the opportunity not only for getting accurate and comprehensive numbers at national, but also at village, locality, suburb, ward, constituency, district and provincial levels. The detail of census results is invaluable for both national and local policy formation, planning and the effective targeting of resources. It provides the only source of directly comparable statistics both for small areas and different population groups. It is also used as a reference base for many statistical series such as population estimates and projections and sample surveys. Every census has its unique features – new developments and innovations to meet changing user needs, to reflect evolving socio-demographic and economic circumstances, and to embrace new methodologies and technologies,” Chabala said.

“The 2010 census was a breakthrough for its time. Many operational advances were successfully introduced in 2010 such as Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) and Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) which facilitated data capture of 3.2 million questionnaires. For each census since 1969, pen and paper has been the standard and it is increasingly being challenged by the processing time, transportation cost, storage facilities, data quality and other intermediary costs. I, do not believe that a paper and pencil approach to the census is sustainable for the 2020 or future censuses. It is no longer cost effective and more importantly, is not environmentally sustainable. The 2020 census project plan that the government has prepared, through, central statistical office, includes a number of innovations that will allow us to achieve a modern census for the 21st century. We are proposing to use mobile technology. Therefore, the 2020 census will be the first of its kind in Zambia to be conducted using electronic data collection methodology – Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI). This will improve the quality of data collected and reduce the time-lag between data collection and the dissemination of results.”

He said the 2020 census would also present citizens with another an opportunity to answer questions about what they would want Zambia to be in future.

“We have seen the value of censuses in the past. From the previous census which took place in 2010, the findings were very insightful, more so at ward level. We discovered that while, in Nchelenge ward of Nchelenge constituency in Nchelenge district, prevalence of child marriage was 4.5 percent, in Nsunga ward of Milengi constituency in Milengi district the rate was at 70.9 percent. The question is, what factors are at play in Nchelenge that can help transpose similar results in Milenge district? So 2020 census will present us with another opportunity to answer questions such as what must the Zambia of tomorrow look like? What policy changes can we initiate to improve the welbeing of our people? How many schools are we going to build to ensure children of school-going age are adequately catered for? How many hospitals or clinics do we need for our sick people? How much food must we produce now and, in the future, to eradicate hunger and poverty? How many housing units should we build to reduce over-crowdedness?” said Chabala.

“For all these questions, it is not enough just to know how many people there are at the time of the census, but we must know also how fast the population is increasing and, how many people there will be in five or more years in the future. The 2020 census will also help us know how far we are with regards to achieving the global agenda 2030 on sustainable development goals, Africa agenda 2063 for unity, peace and prosperity and Zambia vision 2030 for a prosperous and industrialized country.On their part, are huge and expensive exercises which government alone cannot undertake without the collaborative efforts of other stakeholders; hence this meeting of technical experts from cooperating partners has been called to appreciate the resource requirement of a population and housing census and influence resource allocation from their budgets to facilitating the conducting of 2020 census.”