Swaziland goes digital for 2017 census

21 June 2016

Swaziland – Every 10 years since 1966, the Government of Swaziland has conducted a Population and Housing Census, the largest national data undertaking. This provides demographic and socio-economic data on every person who is resident in Swaziland at the time of the census.

The previous national Population and Housing Census was conducted in 2007, which means the country is now gearing up for the next census, to be conducted in April/May 2017. Preparations for this national exercise are already underway and field officers have been deployed to initiate country mapping processes.

UNFPA Representative for Swaziland, Sharareh Amirkhalili (2nd from right) officially handing over the equipment to Bertram Stewart, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Economic Planning & Development. With them are Siboniso Masilela (far left), Under Secretary, Ministry of Economic Planning & Development and Amos Zwane (2nd from left), Director, Central Statistics Office. © UNFPA / Phumzile Dlamini

The 2017 census is especially important because it will be the first to use computer-based mobile equipment for data collection, thereby developing national capacity for the collection and analysis of census data through the use of digital technologies.

To help strengthen national capacity in this area, in April this year the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA supported a Swaziland team to travel to Senegal, one of the first countries in Africa to pioneer mobile census technology, for a South-South information and experience exchange. Members of the Swaziland delegation included three statisticians from the Central Statistical Office who are core members of the census planning team and work under the demography, cartography and information technology portfolios; an applications developer from the Computer Services Department; and one UNFPA staff member leading the Population and Development portfolio.

The Swaziland team learned what worked best for Senegal in the use of digital technology in the undertaking of their census. This knowledge will be used to shape the 2017 Swaziland Population and Housing census operational plan.    

UNFPA’s support to and collaboration on national housing and population censuses in Swaziland dates back to the 1976 census. It covers technical and financial assistance to carry out census activities, as well as leading the coordination and leveraging of resources among development partners for various processes in the census implementation.  

The equipment donated included 35 electronic tablets (pictured) and 4 Arc Geographic Information Systems (GIS) licences. © UNFPA / Phumzile Dlamini

Part of UNFPA’s support to the 2017 national census exercise included the provision of technical support and supply of mobile census equipment to the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development’s Central Statistical Office for data collection. The equipment donated included 35 electronic tablets and 4 Arc Geographic Information Systems (GIS) licences.

Receiving the equipment on behalf of the Ministry, Principal Secretary Bertram Stewart thanked UNFPA for its support. The donation will go a long way in supporting the country as it switches to computer-based technology for data collection, he said.

At the official handover event, UNFPA Representative Sharareh Amirkhalili said UNFPA welcomed the shift towards digital data collection, noting that this would improve efficiency and minimize human error. UNFPA and other UN agencies would continue to provide technical and financial support to ensure the successful implementation of the housing and population census, she said.

The Government of Swaziland has committed to provide 85 per cent of the census budget and, over and above this, the cost for engaging the Census Technical Specialist. Other UN agencies that have provided financial support towards the census include the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

By Phumzile Dlamini