The challenges of digitalization in the 2024 Population and Housing Census

April, 2024.- A legal census, a logic of trained enumerators and a digital collection of information, are the main characteristics of the 2024 Census that began a month ago. “What is at stake here is knowing how much deployment the State has in person and how much is ultimately left to digital deployment,” says the director of the School of Government of the Universidad Mayor and researcher in IMFD and NUDOS, Sergio Toro Maureira, in the interview published in Nudos.

On this occasion—unlike the failed 2017 Census—the population count will be carried out over a period of 3 months and will be applied through digital instruments.

Although the digital application of the questionnaire is new for the Population and Housing Census, this mechanism is not new in the use of surveys. Casen 2022, for example, was also applied via digital instruments.

Sergio Toro, principal investigator of the Millennium Nucleus of Digital Inequalities and Opportunities (NUDOS) and the Millennium Institute Foundational Research on Data (IMFD) who was part of the panel of experts to design, implement and evaluate the Casen 2022 Survey, explains that in this type of digital instruments “there is a program that allows you or the interviewer to mark the questionnaires and that ultimately makes everything centralized in one place.”

In this sense, the academic adds that digital questionnaires are very different from paper questionnaires: “In paper questionnaires, for example, you had to read the options and sometimes an option made you jump to another question, but now “Digital questionnaires allow you to make that leap by programming.”

Application digitization

Another novelty of this process is the possibility of digitally self-censuring in case the census takers do not find people in the house. However, Sergio has several questions about the possibility of self-censorship. “Not only does there no longer exist a professional census taker, but you also don’t know who is answering that particular code for the home, because it is not a particular code for the person. Therefore, it can be answered by anyone and can lead to erroneous answers.” Furthermore, he adds: “What happens if the person who receives this is a person with little digital skills, generally older groups, rural groups, etc. Will they be able to make this income? because the majority have to do the digital census via telephone because they do not have a fixed Internet network, they do not have computers, but simply telephones.”

According to the 2023 Digital Inclusion Study prepared by the alternate director of NUDOS, Teresa Correa, and the principal researcher of the Imhay Millennium Nucleus, Isabel Pavez; People in rural sectors and older age groups experience significant difficulties in understanding digital media. “The big problem with digital deployment, understanding that we are trying to move towards an electronic government, is understanding who can participate in it and with it the biases that are generated due to the inability that some people have to develop this procedure in digital terms”, says Sergio.

“What is at stake here is knowing how much deployment the State has in person and how much is ultimately left to digital deployment” closes the academic.



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