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Digital census

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The 7th population census will take place in the next calendar year. The government submitted a summary to the Common Interests Council (ICC) for approval for the census to be held, with details on the bulletproof security of armed forces personnel.

A census always has huge consequences – it can redefine constituencies, demographics and boundaries, thus having a big impact on elections and politics. In fact, the 2017 census raised a lot of challenges from different political parties, especially the PPP which used the census excuse to delay local elections. The results of the census also have an important impact on the construction of policies, research initiatives and the allocation of funds.

Thus, it is essential for the functioning of the country – and for the next democratic process to run smoothly – that the census be conducted in the most transparent and fair way possible. While the government is working on this, it is also important to support the digital experience with the plain paper track since this is the first time. Staff training and a host of other issues could lead to more counting errors, which is why digital setups typically take longer to implement.

This task is all the more daunting since it is the first time that the census will be carried out digitally. The government does not have a good track record of keeping abreast of technological advances in this regard – it needs to make sure it has the best resources and experts on hand to help with this massive project. The government must also look to the 2017 census to ensure it does not repeat the mistakes made then. On this occasion, the census should be a collaborative project. To ensure the credibility and ownership of the entire census process, provinces must be involved from start to finish and from planning to compilation of census results.