In an environment wrought with economic challenges and deteriorating living standards, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics gave us hope as it inaugurated the self-enumeration portal. The portal is one of many technological innovations stitched together to digitize the census process in Pakistan, bringing it at par with those developed nations that conduct their census using technology to various degrees. These include United States, United Kingdom, India, Iran, Egypt, and Bangladesh among others.
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In the aftermath of the controversies arising during the 2017 census, Mr Sarwar Gondal, Member SSRM, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics took an exemplary initiative to use an integrated multi-technology approach to digitize the census process. Hence, eliminating any shadow of doubt about the census results. Working day and night, Mr Gondal, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics talented team supported by stakeholders and the Chief Census Commissioner, Mr Naeem uz Zafar, developed a comprehensive and extensive digitized methodology and approach for the census. While learning from international best practices, Mr Gondal was cognizant of the ground realities.
During the inauguration ceremony of the self-enumeration portal, Chief Census Commissioner, Mr Naeem uz Zafar, greatly appreciated the contribution of Mr Gondal and the hard work of the PBS team, including the dedication of Ms Rabia Awan.
The self-enumeration web portal has been developed to provide citizens with an option to fill out the census form themselves using the internet. This option not only offers citizens ease and convenience, but also makes the census more transparent and accountable. The https://self.pbs.gov.pk can be accessed through any device at any time. The citizens have greatly appreciated this initiative and even in the short time since its launch over million people have visited the site and 50,000 families have already filled out the census form.
While talking about the digital journey, Mr Naeem uz Zafar, shared the challenges and accomplishments, especially in building the trust of all stakeholders, in particular at the provincial level. He shared that it was essential to build the ownership of all stakeholders at all levels, and the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics leadership travelled to every part of the country to ensure that there was a keen understanding of the census process and the benefits of the implemented digital process was realised by everyone.
Mr Gondal and Mr Zafar have personally led the digitization of the census from the front, from concept to execution. They have attended all trainings across the country, provided oversight to technology development, procurement, and distribution. Focus has also been put on standardizing concepts and maintain quality while ensuring reliability of data collection. The training involved conventional training, conceptual videos, real life examples case studies, mock exercises and addressing FAQs.
The use of digital technology and (GIS) modernizes the entire census process, making it more transparent, efficient and accurate. Opting the digitalized way the entire census process reduces the execution time as well. A national census coordination center is set up along with integrated media strategy for public awareness campaign and comprehensive security arrangements have also been made. The questionnaire for the census is simplified. The field operation procedure is comprehensive and census workers are thoroughly trained. To confirm authenticity a post-census survey will be conducted to validate the census results.
This year, enumerators going door-to-door will have tablets or smartphones that will let them enter information digitally. Additionally, a dedicated call centre has also been established. The census enumeration process is being logged in real-time and the process can be monitored live. Using an innovative approach, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics is using its social media platform to log its digital journey and as a customer, service point to answer queries and provide guidance to citizens. These are just a few of the technological innovations brought into the census process through the dedication, hard work, and resilience of the current Pakistan Bureau of Statistics leadership.
The digitization of the census is an important step towards modernizing Pakistan. Extensive and comprehensive steps have been taken to plan and execute this massive national effort. International best practices were adapted to the realities of Pakistan to develop an indigenous technological solution to conduct the 7th population and housing census of Pakistan. All credit goes to the leadership of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics for overcoming all challenges to successfully accomplish this monumental task.
The whole census process has been digitized to improve efficiency and transparency. In times of constant challenges and trying times, the census is giving us hope for a better future.