Philip Hamilton, Gleaner Writer
It will cost the Government approximately $1.4 billion to administer the 2011 Population and Housing Census of Jamaica, scheduled to get underway on April 5 next year.
The census, which is fully government funded, is being undertaken by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), and will last for four months, ending in July 2011.
A census involves gathering, and recording information on the people of a country or given area, and is usually done every 10 years.
Jamaica's last population and housing census was taken in 2001.
STATIN's Director General, Sonia Jackson, who made the disclosure Tuesday during a function observing World Population Day at Devon House in St Andrew, said the electronic and print advertising campaign for the 2011 census would start in October.
The campaign will also target schools through several presentations as part of the census awareness programme, in addition to several social clubs and groups across the island, including churches.
As part of its preparations for the upcoming Population and Housing Census, STATIN is currently conducting a field test in randomly selected areas across the island.
The field test, which ends on July 31, will test the design and wording of the questionnaire to be used in the census, as well as provide STATIN with vital information for making improvements before census workers visit households next year.
Jackson said, in addition to the regular gathering of population and housing data, the 2011 census will include a new component - the use of technology within homes.
"As we move forward, we know about the capacity of our population to use the technology, as it will aid us in our development plan," the STATIN Director General said.
Jackson used the occasion to appeal to the public to assist the organisation in its data collection efforts, noting that STATIN's workers continued to experience several challenges in this area.
"We know security's an issue, and we're all concerned about who we let into our houses," she said.
She added that census takers and every data interviewer from STATIN have a personal ID issued by the organisation and appropriately signed. She noted that workers were required to show these IDs on entering homes.
Jackson said while she was aware of the concerns expressed by persons regarding the confidentiality of the data provided, she noted that STATIN and its staff were bound by the Statistics Act in the conduction of its operations.
Section 17 (2) of the Act forbids the release or publication of confidential information collected from individuals in any form that would enable others to identify it with these persons.
Jackson was at pains to explain data collected from individuals, householders and businesspersons was used for statistical purposes only and not given to anyone else, something STATIN continually reinforced.
"In our several years of operation, there hasn't been any breach. I don't expect any breach to happen this year, and I don't expect any to happen next year either," the STATIN Director-General reassured.
Other challenges facing census workers
A major challenge facing STATIN and census workers in carrying out their duties is the lack of access to gated communities and apartment complexes. Residents usually refused to talk to them or let them in.
"We're asking you for your co-operation. You have to open those gates and let us in. We can facilitate you by making arrangements to come in to collect the data," said STATIN's Director General, Sonia Jackson.
Jackson also appealed to homeowners to "hold dogs" during census takers visits, noting that many had been forced to stop working after being attacked and bitten by canines.