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CSO to spend estimated €1.2 million on smart phones and equipment as Census 2021 goes digital

Over 5,000 smart phones will be given to the Census enumerators around the country to capture data in April 2021.

Census form from 2016.
Census form from 2016.
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

THE CENTRAL STATISTICS Office (CSO) is set to spend an estimated €1.2 million on smartphones, routers and other equipment as it goes digital for Census 2021.

It has put to tender a requirement for the provision of 5,800 smart phones, 523 external Wifi routers and 42 normal Wifi routers to help the CSO’s field team capture the data from every household in Ireland for the next Census.

The Census is carried out by the CSO every five years, and measures the overall population of Ireland alongside statistics on the age profile, marital status, nationality, religion and housing status of the people here.

Census 2021 is due to take place on Sunday 18 April 2021, with eight new questions on this edition including ones related to renewable energy, smoking, volunteering and childcare.  Changes have also been made to 25 existing questions including ones on disability, ethnic group, religion and the Irish language.

In tender documents issued by the CSO, it said it typically recruits around 5,100 Census enumerators for a ten-week period, covering the five weeks before Census night for the delivery of forms to homes and the five weeks after Census night for collection of forms. 

Each of these enumerators are assigned around 300-600 dwellings within their areas, and they need to deliver and collect census forms from around two million dwellings in total.

Each of these enumerators are supported by a supervisor, of which there are around 466 across the country. In turn, there are around 46 regional supervisors assigned to 10 districts and then around six central liaison officers oversee the entire process and report back to Census HQ.

The CSO said that in previous Censuses, the details captured by enumerators was all subsequently recorded by them using a paper-based system but this has been replaced with a digital version in the form of a “fully integrated case management system (CMS) application for use on smart devices”.

“The aim of the CMS is to streamline the delivery and collection phases, reduce workload, provide real-time management information about the field operation to supervisors and Census Headquarters in Swords and to make the overall process more efficient,” the CSO said.

Each of these enumerators, supervisors and liaison officers will be provided with a smart phone that has access to the CMS. 

Each of the phones must be Android and come with a variety of supporting features.

smart phones

When the process is completed, the successful tenderer must incur the cost of returning the smart phones and associated equipment. However, the CSO said that the full complement may not necessarily be returned.

“While it is the intention of the CSO to return all smart phones received, it is however expected that a small number of smart phones (potentially a maximum of 50) may be reported as lost/stolen over the course of the field operation,” it said, adding that the cost of each smartphone that isn’t returned must be included in the pricing schedule laid out.

The deadline for response to this tender – with an estimated cost of €1.2 million – is 31 January 2020.

Commenting on the confirmation of the date for Census 2021 last July, senior CSO statistician Cormac Halpin said: “The value of the statistical information provided by the census cannot be overestimated. It drives policy, targets services where needed and informs our decisions at a time of continuing social change.

With less than two years to go, the preparations are well underway and securing government approval for the date and questionnaire marks a major milestone for Census 2021.

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Sean Murray

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