Brazil, a country with a high level of poverty and class inequality, conducts a population census in an unusual way. The government has launched the first fully digital census. They managed to achieve this faster than such developed countries as the USA, whose testing of digital technologies failed and they were forced to return to the old-fashioned paper census. Brazil's census is another example of how technology is used in underdeveloped and developing countries to solve its internal problems.
The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), which conducted the study, made a choice in favor of the existing technology. They ordered 150000 LG 750 GM smartphones, which are easily available at retail for about $ 280. Interviewers used them to collect answers to the questionnaire and then transmit information using GPS to one of the 7,000 data collection and processing centers.
Brazilians note several advantages of using the digital census over traditional paper and pen. For example, GPS data allows you to more accurately locate each family. According to GPS, a cross-reference is made on a satellite image of the country, ensuring that the answers are geared to the correct location. The digital approach allows you to track changes in areas, streets and houses that are usually difficult to see in the usual way. This is especially important in slums, since these areas are rapidly changing and printed maps are rapidly becoming obsolete. The use of digital technologies allows to provide the best coverage, accuracy of the transmitted information and meet the deadlines.
It is estimated by IBGE that up to 5 percent of households are misplaced in the traditional census, while in the digital census this figure is only 0.5%. Digital data collection is simpler and more reliable than traditional, and allows you to get data even from remote areas and ensures the inclusion of previously inaccessible communities in census statistics.
With this technology, it is possible to obtain more detailed information on the distribution of state objects such as schools and medical centers in relation to population density and to assess the need of people for such institutions. The digital census is also significantly cheaper and environmentally safer. The latest census budget is about $ 909 million for a population of 58 million households. For comparison, in the United States, a census of population by one third larger than in Brazil will cost $ 14 billion.
Experts believe that the digital approach in the United States failed because the organization that was hired for these purposes was trying to create a specialized device for data collection. In Brazil, it only took to develop special software for computers in data centers and applications for smartphones.
Responding to a question about the safety and reliability of digital data collection, Eduardo Núñez (Eduardo Nunes), President of IBGE, said that the collected data and its backup copies are stored on two separate drives in smartphones, and the transmitted data is immediately checked by integrity tests. Mr. Núñez also said that the interviewers did not encounter any resistance among the local population, not least because, wherever possible, they were recruited among their communities, and the approach was tested since 2007.
The IBGE also notes the benefit in the speed of processing the collected information, because what used to take years, now takes several months. And the government of the country has chosen a digital approach, not only with the aim of saving money, but also because it can play a key role in shaping a more public policy.
“Much attention in the 2010 census was given to information about the social and demographic areas of the population’s life. We want to know how Brazil can achieve the development goals set by the government and society by 2015, ”Mr. Núñez concluded.