Saturday 24 March 2018

Digital Census with online forms in 2021

CSO senior statistician Deirdre Cullen
CSO senior statistician Deirdre Cullen
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Tomorrow's census will be the last where you must fiddle with forms and fill out boxes with black or blue pen.

Householders will be able to fill out the 2021 Census form online, but the switch could result in the massive data-gathering exercise taking place over a number of days.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has confirmed that three options will be available - the existing system where the form is dropped to your home, completed on census night, and collected by an enumerator.

The second, new, option will allow householders return the form by post, and the third will allow them complete it online.

The online system is already in place in a number of countries including Canada, Australia and the UK, and CSO senior statistician Deirdre Cullen said research suggested the quality of data collected was better.

"When they've done an internet census in Canada and Australia, it's posted out or hand delivered - I'd imagine we would post it out - and there is an access code to an online form."

Ms Cullen said the new system would involve "quite a bit of work", but that the move would allow more questions to be asked.

The switch to an online system will require investment in IT systems, and could result in Census night becoming Census nights.

"You could have half a million people hitting a website in a night, so you could ask people to fill it out over a couple or weeks or over a number of nights to spread the load," Ms Cullen said.

The costs have yet to be worked out, and while the initial funding may be high, it would result in lower costs in the longer term as fewer people would need to be employed in the field.

Planning has already begun, with more information next year.

Irish Independent

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