Monday, September 8, 2014


It’s amazing how things change. This is my third census in Uganda. 

In the first census there was a public holiday. We all sat around the enumerator when she came and dutifully answered her questions the first time. The second time I don’t think I was counted chances are the enumerator bounced at our locked home. So they couldn’t have been a public holiday even then. This time I was informed that we had been counted days after the fact.

I am better than some of my friends some who swear they hadn’t been counted but found their gates marked as such. One friend waited all day dutifully at home on Monday and no one turned up. When they drove out of their gate on Tuesday morning they had been marked as counted!

It was heartening to see enumerators climbing mountains, crossing rivers and maybe even deserts to get the job done.

Looking forward to the next census hopefully in 2024 the question needs to be asked, IS there a more efficient and effective way of carrying out a census than we have been doing since the first one in 1911?

I am sure our data storage has been vastly improved given the changes in computer technology in the last 10 years. But our enumerators are still using pen and paper to get the job done.

Maybe we should start planning for the next census as soon as this one is done. And should not be a problem for the bureau of statistics alone.

Imagine a situation where all births and deaths are logged into a centralised data bank. All students in our education system are fed into the same bank. All ID, passport and driving permit holders as well. All NSSF members. All property and business owners too. And we shouldn’t forget mobile phone owners. 

By the time we get to 2024 the census would be for mopping up those living on the fringes of society and verifying the existing statistics.

The beauty of such a system is that our population numbers would be real time, with changes happening with ever increasing sensitivity to the reality.

Some people were still wondering what the purpose of the whole census is? In theory the census should help our planners in their job. The government is supposed to plan for its citizens, ideally for an improved standard of living for them going into the future. In the best of circumstances this is no easy task but would be made even more complicated without a sense of population numbers.

Which probably explains the state of our universal primary education effort. At the time it was conceived it was supposed to be for a maximum of four kids per family but enforcement collapsed and it was decided to open it for all. And we had no clue what that would mean. We are still suffering the effects of that.

The importance of the planning function cannot be understated, but the credibility of our planning will be determined by the data we are working with.

Let us invest in the hardware and processes to make the exercise, which comes around every ten years, less time consuming, effective and cheaper. 

But there lies the catch.

 Of course for the planners one of the major drawbacks of greater use of technology is that it will cut down on the surface area for  eating and  per diems!

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